Oct 162014
 

LESSONS

Three lessons I have learned from shooting the streets.

By Steve Huff

Street Photography has enjoyed a huge resergance in recent years. With the many blogs writing about it, workshops showing others how to do it, and the constant barrage of street shooter hobbyists sharing their photos, street shooting has seemed to meld into all sorts of things, much of the time having nothing to do with the old school style of which most everyone was inspired. My favorite street photographs of all time were shot by none other than Vivian Maier. Not only are her photographs very special, they bring back memories of a time before I was even born. The cool part for me is that her amazing street photos were all shot in my hometown of Chicago, giving me a glimpse of the people of the past. If you are not familiar with her story, I urge you to watch the documentary “Finding Vivian Maier”.

I consider Vivian’s work to be more than “street photography” as many know and practice it today. I see her work as something special, something magical and more along the lines of “street portraits” much of the time. She loved shooting people and she had a talent for it that many of us (including myself) do not. As I browse through the book of her work “Out of the Shadows” (which I HIGHLY recommend, amazon link HERE) I am over-run with emotion as I am taken back to the past, to slices of life that we will never see again. Because Vivian captured this fraction of a second on to film, a memory was made. A time capsule if you will. I have said many times that we already have a time machine here on earth, and it is called a camera. While we can not physically go back in time, looking at old photos will take us there in our hearts and minds. A camera is a powerful tool when used in the right way.

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When I started shooting street images I was horrible at it (and still consider myself a street hobbyist with so much to learn). I was fearful to let anyone know or see that I was taking an image of them. I was afraid to lift it up and make eye contact with the subject, and I usually came away from a day of shooting with nothing to show for it. Eventually I told myself “you must never fear taking a photograph”! Fearing the actual act of taking a photo was killing my passion for photography and that was not good. If I wanted to get out on the street and snap those special moments, those slices of life, the people I meet and those time capsule memories…then I needed to just do it and NOT think about it.

*The 1st lesson I learned is to never fear shooting in public. Just do it, and act as if it is as natural as looking at someone and giving a smile. But also you must use your instincts as to WHEN and when NOT to shoot.*

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After a while I realized  there was absolutely nothing to fear when out shooting people out in public. 99% of the time I get a smile back, a nod or a grumpy face but never have I been attacked and I think that comes from my instinct. What I mean by this is that after a while you start to get an idea of whom to approach, who to raise your camera to and who NOT to do this with. I can sense if someone will have an issue with me taking their photo, and in these cases, I skip it. Many will say “take it anyway” but I believe in respect when shooting on the street in public. I also believe in some sort of acknowledgement if you want a “street portrait”. Not setting up the scene but making sure the person is OK with you taking their portrait.

Rio Brazil: Saw this happy smiling man sitting on the street and sat down to chat with him for a while. He did not speak English but he wanted me to take his portrait after he saw my camera, so I did. For me, making a connection to strangers is one of the appeals of taking street portraits. 

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Las Vegas NV: I noticed a rowdy bunch of guys on the street selling nightclub tickets so I walked up and asked if I could grab a shot of them. When I approached I was calm, cool and confident as confidence usually gets your subject to feel comfortable. Below you can see the shot and below that shot is an image of me taking the shot :) Shot using the Leica Monochrom.

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Walked by this Security guy who was directing traffic and people on the strip in Vegas. I passed him up then decided to walk back over to him. I made eye contact, nodded my head and snapped. It all happened so fast he said “you did not give me time to smile” 

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Many times I will sit down and chat with whoever I want to take a snap of. If they are OK with me shooting them after this, I will. If not, I thank them and wish them a great day.

*So the 2nd lesson I have learned for my style of street shooting is “be respectful to all and use your instincts”. Usually when you do this, you will also be respected back instead of someone getting angry and wanting to tear your camera away and smash it.*

Not all street scenes are portraits of course..all depends on the scene. Many like to catch human interactions and be invisible to the subject. I have seen some astounding images shot in this fashion from others and it is also a style that is nice to take on, but it requires patience. Many street shooters I know who shoot in this fashion will stay in one spot for hours..waiting for the one moment where they will get a nice shot. While I prefer human interaction, I do not always have a chance to chat first, and when this happens I just shoot.

When shooting street it can take years to be able to develop your senses or how to “see” things worthy of a photo. I am no expert on this, not even close but I have learned over the years that you should always keep your eyes peeled as many things happen in a split second while other situations need to be observed for a while.

*The Third thing I have learned is learning how to “see” and “observe” as things usually move quick on the streets*

Rio, Brazil: Seeing this elderly man sit down on the bench I observed his actions for a while. He was just sitting there like a statue for 10-15 minutes, moving very little in this time. What I saw is a man, sitting like a statue next to a real statue. The three younger ladies behind him were enjoying the Ocean view in Rio while this man may have been looking back on his life while listening to the water. 

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St. Petersburg Russia at Midnight (yes midnight) – Saw this couple ready to kiss with the midnight sun behind them and the boat chugging along..raised my Leica M9 and shot. For me this captures the romance of this city perfectly.

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Recife Brazil: This woman was not the friendliest looking person but who knows, she may have been sweet as pie. The look on her face tells me she may punch me if I snap, but then again, maybe not. I wanted to get a profile but as I snapped she looked behind her. This is not a technically great photo but it is edgy. I was recently asked if I like “Beauty” or “Truth” and I always say “TRUTH” as that is reality. Beauty and fake beauty is everywhere but truth trumps all. 

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Seattle: Saw this girl having a great time on the beach. The sun was setting and the weather was amazing. Wanted to catch her laugh to show that in this one moment in time, this person was having a great time in their life. Happy and full of life. 

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Inside of a truck stop somewhere in middle America: Was eating lunch when I saw a kid outside the window begging his grandmother for money so he could buy a toy he saw inside the shop. She refused at first, telling him NO NO NO! She then relaxed, pulled out a smoke and gave him her coin purse. Seems the cigarette gave her some peace :) I was watching the interaction take place for a while before deciding to snap a shot.

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Berlin Germany: While in Berlin I saw this couple cuddling and holding hands so I followed them down the street for one minute. At a street crossing I saw her embrace him and right after I shot this she smiled at me as she knew I captured some love right there :) 

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New York City: Hanging around NYC was a blast and it is a street shooters dream. I love this one that I caught of a man coming out Penn Station

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Rio Brazil: A woman massaging her man’s neck and back as she whispered sweet nothings to him. They acted like they were all alone and oblivious to the surroundings. I squatted down, snapped the shot and afterwards the guy looked and gave me a  thumbs up. I was alone on this walk in Brazil with my Leica and never hesitated to shoot.

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Scottsdale AZ: At a bar just before Christmas I was greeted by a dog at the bar. He was shaking everyone’s hand who came in and was just like an old bartender, but friendlier. I had to snap this hand shaking dog so I could always remember the laughs we had that night. 

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Berlin: Shooting people on a bus can be interesting. This woman looked deep in thought and I wondered what she was thinking about..of course I will never know that, or her, but I like the photo. 

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Somewhere in Brazil…another Bus shot. 

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Rio: I was eating lunch at an outdoor cafe near the beach when I saw these two guys. I raised my camera, gave them a nod and they gave me a pose :) 

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Seattle: A street performer who has been here for a long time singing to all of the tourists…

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Berlin: I saw this man riding a bike with some pretty nifty socks.Had to get a shot.

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While walking down the street I saw  these two parking attendants arguing. Usually one would stay out-of-the-way of  two guys getting into an argument but I snapped without them knowing until AFTER I snapped the shot. They were cool with it and ended up laughing at themselves in the end. 

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Seattle: Seeing this little boy skipping, dancing and enjoying an apple at the Gum Wall. I snapped when he looked over at me as he was taking a bite out of his apple

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So basically the moral of MY story is when I dropped the fear of taking images of strangers, and when I learned to use my instincts of when and when not to shoot and when I learned how to “see” better it all added up to improve my street photography to a higher level than when I first started. While I have lots to learn, and I do not do too much street shooting these days, I always have fun with it, which to me is the most important! If you do not have fun with photography then it will get old..fast. So always shoot what YOU enjoy shooting, even if it is flowers, leaves or trees. Whatever makes YOU happy is all that matters!

OF COURSE there is much more to it than those three things but that is a good starting point. Also being comfortable with your camera and lens will help you along the way. ;)

Recife Brazil: Two girls on the beach. This was late night and I was out with my M9 and Noctilux. When they saw my camera they said “TAKE OUR PHOTO”!! To me, this is what it is all about..interaction with others, having a great time and nailing a nice photo to take you back to that moment.

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SMILE! This one was taken somewhere in Seattle and she loved having the attention and her photo taken :) 

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Talin Estonia: Shot this girl on the street during an early morning walk

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To those who want to get better at shooting images on the street can start with losing the fear of shooting strangers, learn to develop their eye and how to observe and also to be respectful to those we approach and want to photograph. Most of all, have fun.  While I will never be a master of the street. I have loads of fun doing it :)

Steve

Oct 112014
 

The IBELUX 40mm f/0.85 Lens. World’s Shortest Review

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The new Ibelux lens has arrived to me for a quick review and I have shot a few frames with it since the video below was made and have to say I do not find it worth the $2300 asking price, and I know this just from my 1st couple of uses. I have found the lens to be much too large, much too heavy and a bit soft when wide open, which means I would not use it wide open. I feel it was made for the f/0.85 aperture so it can be presented as one of the worlds fastest lenses over anything else BUT it lacks sharpness as well as character.

Being an APS-C lens (not full frame) it just seems a bit too “much” in everything from weight, size and price.

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Also, was shooting with it and went to twist out the Leica copy slide out hood and it just fell off, during my 1st use with the lens (it is not supposed to come off). This does not inspire confidence in build IMO. The shots I have taken also lack any kind of special character IMO. By f/1.4-f/2 its sharpens up but at this price there are MUCH better lenses to be had. For example, a Zeiss 50 Planar at $800 or a Zeiss ZM 50 1.5 Sonnar for $1100 or even better a real Leica 50 Summicron f/2 which will be sharper at f/2 than this lens at about 1/7th the size. The Zeiss Touit 50 f/2.8 is STUNNING in sharpness, colors, 3D pop and comes in at $999 and is MUCH smaller and lighter. Sure it is not an f/0.85 lens but my professional opinion is that this lens was made  to be 0.85 for marketing reasons, not performance reasons.

This lens also has an issue on the Sony A6000 as there is banding when using it at any ISO. I have shot with MANY if not ALL uber fast lenses and this one has left me the most disappointed.

Below is the lens on the A6000 at f/1 – click to see 100% crop and banding. 

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Long story short, I will not be doing a full review of this lens because it is something I would never recommend due to the cost, size, the fact that it is APS-C only, the heavy weight and underwhelming performance when shot wide open, which is what the main draw to the lens is. Also the fact that on the A6000 Sony it has a banding issue as well as construction concerns. I would recommend a Zeiss ZM lens any day over this for less money and better performance. Usually I would not write anything, I would have just passed on it but many have asked me to start to write about the things I use and DO NOT like as well, so here you go :)

It seems like they concentrated on packaging and making the lens look like a uber large Leica lens, with Leica style case and all to give the appearance of high quality. They also made a point to say “Designed in Germany” yet the lens is made in China.

One more thing..the lens is VERY long as you can see in the image at the top of the screen.

If the lens was $899 it would be a different story but at $2079.00, for me, it is a no go.

Below is my 1st look video before I even shot with the lens..when I was more optimistic about it.

You can read more on this lens at B&H Photo HERE.

If you do not mind a large size and weight then you may actually dig this lens, but be warned..it’s HEAVY!

Oct 082014
 

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The Lomography Petzval Art Lens Review

You can buy the Petzval Art Lens at Cameraquest using the direct link HERE

A long time ago in a land far far away there was a special and important portrait lens invented. The 1st usable portrait lens ever created, and it was designed by  Joseph Petzval in 1840. It was made of brass and it was very large, intended for cameras of the time. The unique look of the images from this lens was normal at the time, as it was the only useful portrait lens around. Even so it was a lens designed to cut down on exposure time from 30 minutes to mere seconds.

More on Joseph Petzval from Wikipedia:

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“Petzval’s greatest achievements lie in his work with geometric optics. In 1839, Louis Daguerre presented the Daguerreotype, the first commercially successful photographic process. Fox Talbot’s calotype was discovered earlier but did not enjoy commercial success. Petzval learned of the invention from his friend, Viennese professor Andreas von Ettingshausen. The daguerreotype was problematic in that it required exposure times as long as 30 minutes to create a portrait. With Ettingshausen’s urging, Petzval set up a workshop and laboratory at Kahlenberg in Vienna and, after six months of complex computations, produced designs for improved objective lenses for both portraiture and landscape photography. Because the artillery was one of the few occupations that used advanced mathematical computations at the time, Archduke Ludwig lent eight artillery cannoners and three corporals to the computational efforts. The calculations these men carried out in tandem with each other have been regarded as an early (albeit human) example of a parallel computer.

Petzval’s portrait objective lens (Petzval Porträtobjektiv) was an almost distortionless Anachromatischer vierlinser (double achromatic objective lens, with four lenses in three groups). The luminous intensity of this flat “portrait lens” was substantially higher than the daguerre standard of 1839, the Wollaston Chevalier lens (f/16). The screen f/3.6 with a focal length of 160 mm made crucially shorter exposure times possible — using exposures of only about 15 to 30 seconds compared to the 10 minutes previously. Thus, snapshots became possible for the first time.”

So Mr. Petzval is an important guy in history as he was responsible for creating the first usable portrait lens. Photos from that time all have a unique classic yet surreal look due to the photo process AND the lens being used.

Enter Today’s Re-Creation of the famous Petzval Lens

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As time went on of course lens design became more of an advanced art and therefore lenses became sharper, well corrected, and with more sharpness across the frame. Today most lenses are perfected for optimum performance as we can do things today that could not be done in 1840.

Personally, I would say that many of the expensive lenses made today are almost too corrected! Sure, there are many more uses for a perfect lens than a not so perfect one but sometimes I get bored with that “perfect” look as it is the same look everyone has in their images today. Many of us are constantly seeking perfection it seems when it comes to our cameras and lenses, so I say it is a good thing when we take a slight curve or u-turn into a surreal dreamy world ever now and again :)

When something unique comes along TODAY that goes against the normal then I am always interested to take a look, so this new Petzval lens made by Lomo attracted my attention from the get go. Over a year ago now in August of 2013 Lomography put up a kickstarter for an exciting new portrait lens. This lens was the NEW Petzval, recreated in a smaller for full frame Nikon and Canon mounts. While much smaller than the Petzval of the old days, this one retained the same shape, design and brass construction. It also kept the insane swirly bokeh, soft edges and classic out of this world fantasy land look. The new Petzval inspired lens was announced as an 85mm f/2.2 design and promised a classic look just like the old version put out.

As you can see, an original Petzval lens is on the left..the new version (which was a prototype) is on the right. Much more manageable in size :)

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As soon as I saw the Kickstarter I WANTED THIS LENS but for some reason my funds were low so I was going to wait to contribute enough to get one of the first lenses. Then, I forgot about it and before I knew it the Kickstarter raised 1.4 Million (they had a $100,000 goal). It was insane! Almost one and a half million was raised which really showed not only the power of Kickstarter but also showed there was a true demand for this amazing new recreation/re-imagining of the first classic portrait lens. So while the signature of the bokeh and rendering is not for everyone, plenty of backers contributed and gave money for this project so they would be assured of a lens for themselves.

 Even though this is an f/2.2 lens and not an f/0.95 design, the Bokeh effect is insane. Some will HATE it, some will LOVE it. Me, I adore it and feel it is a great “every now and then when the time is right” kind of lens. To be honest, the lens is so beautiful to see and hold, I wanted one just to have it on my shelf! Even if I use it only a few times each year it will be worth it just to have this tool in my arsenal. I shoot it on my Sony A7s which is IMO, the best camera available today for using all kinds of cool lens via adapters. Can’t beat a small full frame with intense low light capabilities.

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So yes, I wanted to try one…

A year or so went by and I forgot about the lens until a site sponsor, Cameraquest.com informed me that they were now a Lomo Art Lens dealer and they had the lens IN STOCK! $599 with free shipping.

I was asked if I wanted to review it so of course I could not pass it up. Soon, Stephen Gandy shipped me the lens and when it arrived I was literally blown away by the gorgeous packaging that went into the lens. A gorgeous quality box, a full book about the lens and the history of it with many sample photos, the aperture system and a few other things. For $599, to me, this seemed like a steal. When I pulled the shiny brass lens out of the bag it was in I was very impressed. The look, design, weight and quality was so nice down to the engraving of the name on the lens barrel.

The lens is made in Russia, and it looks and feels TOP NOTCH. The only issue I have found is that the lens cap, which is also brass, always falls off. It is not tight enough so I always find it at the bottom of my bag. Lomo may want to adjust this in future production runs.

Below is the video I made when the lens arrived. You can see the packaging and hear my very 1st thoughts on it:

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After I had the lens for 3-4 days I knew I wanted to commit and buy it. I contacted Stephen at Cameraquest and told him I was going to make the purchase. I also needed the adapter as I was using a Nikon mount version on a Sony A7s, so I needed a Nikon to Sony E-Mount adapter, which Stephen also sells and sent out to me for my testing and eventual purchase as well.

A lens I recently re-reviewed here on these pages was the Canon Dream lens. A lens I had bought not once, but twice in Leica M mount and when I bought my 2nd copy for $3100 I vowed to NEVER sell it… until I received an offer impossible to pass up for it via email. Then I did indeed sell it as I knew I would be a fool to pass up that offer. Even though I sold that lens for much more than I paid, I missed it as soon as it went out the door and started searching for something unique again..something that could give me a similar vibe..and when the Petzval arrived, THERE IT WAS! Just what I was looking for.

With this Petzval lens coming in at only $599 I can get a taste of that Canon dream lens..a bit of that flavor for MUCH MUCH less. While this lens is not the same as the Dream Lens I owned (IMO) I do feel it is a bit similar in rendering with a different signature at the edges and slightly in the Bokeh. I like the dream lens better but for the money, now that my 2nd dream lens was gone, buying the Petzval for my special effect lens was a no brainer.

Color or B&W..does not matter. What you will get is the same Petzval rendering and look. 

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Using the Petzval Lens…

As stated, my Petzval was purchased in Nikon mount which makes it easy to convert for use on the Sony A7s or Leica M 240. The lens is slightly long and manual focus only. The Aperture system is the old waterhouse system meaning there are aperture plates you put into the cameras aperture slit. Me, I use this lens at f/2.2 or f/2.8. By f/4 it sharpens up so much it almost renders like a normal lens, making the Petzval a Jeckyl and Hyde kind of lens. I feel the unique selling point of the lens is the swirly Bokeh effect and soft edges. So I basically always leave the f/2.2 aperture plate in. If you remove the plate you get a TEENY bit more speed according to Lomography and possible flare issues but when I tested this I saw no real difference in Bokeh or Exposure or flare. For those hoping to see more craziness without a plate, there really is none. Many would ask “Why use any plate at all”? Well, without an aperture plate inserted you are allowing dust to float down into the lens, and this is never a good thing :)

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The way you focus the lens is also unique. There is a dial on the left of the lens and this is what you rotate to focus. It is VERY simple and works well. In fact, I wish more lenses worked like this! It seems much more precise. It was so easy to focus on the Sony A7s with the nice big clear EVF that I never had a focus issue. It’s brilliant!

More in COLOR – All wide open at f/2.2

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On the Sony A7s I just plopped on the Nikon to E Mount adapter and then the lens. That was it, ready to rock and swirly roll. Using the lens was a piece of cake. I feel an EVF based mirrorless makes it easier to use this lens because with a Nikon DSLR you are looking through an optical viewfinder and it makes it very very hard to nail focus using the Petzval. I prefer the what you see is what you get type of thing.

It’s NOT an Everyday Lens!

If you are looking for ONE lens and one lens only, this would not be it. While fun, interesting and unique, the look can be overdone so I would reserve it for certain situations or scenarios. I have seen GORGEOUS portraits with this lens and I have seen AWFUL portraits and mis-use of this lens. Using it takes some practice as not everything will look good with it. Some subjects may look really awful using this lens and it probably takes a month or two to really get to know it inside and out. Me, I have been shooting with it for only two weeks so I still have some learning to do before I create my own Petzval “Masterpiece”.

I bought the lens for those few times a year I get the itch for an “artistic” lens. Lenses like the Noctilux, the Canon Dream Lens, Canon 85L and this lens are what I call “Art Lenses” because they create images that can sometimes appear as paintings. They specialize in the surreal and I LOVE these kind of lenses.

Take a look at a few more samples using this very crazy lens – click them for larger versions that look better, especially if you are using a large display (I use a 27″)

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What to expect from the Petzval

If you buy this lens one thing to keep in mind is that when shot wide open you will get images just like you see here. Swirly Bokeh, soft edges and corners, sharp in the dead center of the frame and lower contrast (which is easily fixing in post). All of these ingredients add up to create the signature look of this lens. I can already make a prediction: Many comments here will say “The Bokeh makes me dizzy or sick”, “Those shots are awful”, “I could never use this lens”…then others will say “Wow, that is a cool lens” or “I own one and love it” or “I want one”!

People are usually split on these kinds of swirly lenses. This is one thing that makes the world so great and interesting, no two individuals are alike :) 

Many classic lenses render in a similar way though not so extreme. When shooting this lens remember it is manual focus, manual aperture and will work perfect with the camera set to aperture priority mode. Focusing via a nice EVF is, for me, a breeze. Also, this lens was made for full frame sensors and to get the most out of it this is how I would recommend using it. When taking a full frame lens and using an APS-C or smaller sensor you lose part of the lens signature which is why I never use Leica M glass in Micro 4/3. This lens would be fantastic on the A7s (all images here with the Sony) or even the Leica M 240. All you need is the adapter for each and you are in business. Of course, you can also use it on any Nikon DSLR or if you buy the Canon mount, any Canon DLSR.

This lens is indeed an “Art” lens and I would love to see a 35 or 50mm made just like it as sometimes I find this focal length of 85mm a little long. Lomo should create wider versions with the same design..a trio if you will.

Man I just love the swirl in this shot. Surreal, dreamy, with just the right amount of softness for the portrait. I shot this to show the background rendering of foliage as well as the swirl.

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When shooting this lens expect the Bokeh performance of a faster lens. For some reason it blows out the background like an f/1 lens. It’s crazy but for me, it is beautiful (on most occasions).

My Bottom Line Conclusion on the Petzval Lens

When this lens was announced I WANTED ONE in a bad way. Then I was busy and forgot about it. When it was finally released and I saw samples, the early samples, I was not so impressed. As time went on I studied some of the amazing samples available online and knew I would eventually own one. When Stephen Gandy offered the lens up for review I could not pass it up. I would be able to test it and if I liked it, I could purchase it. Once I saw the attention to detail in the packaging and design as well as the build of the lens and accessories, I was hooked. After shooting off 10 frames or so I was sold.

The lens is not an everyday lens but it is one that will be used from time to time when I want that special dreamy effect. Much like the Canon Dream Lens I recently re-visited, this lens has some craziness to the rendering, but I am a crazy guy so I love it. But…I would tire of it if I used it daily, really quick.

Depending on the background of your subject you could end up with a nasty busy mess or a beautiful ethereal image that looks like a painting. It takes reality and distorts it a little, giving us a taste of what it is like to be an artist. Those photographers with the eye and vision for the unique will get it. Others will not. 100% personal preference. But it does take practice to determine the best distance from subject to lens and subject to background. Get these just right and the images deliver the look you want. It’s a hell of a lens! While shooting it in Las Vegas I had so many ask me about the lens. When eating a waitress saw it and had to ask all about it telling me she wanted one for her son. It will get attention, but it was all good attention. People were genuinely curious about it due to the design and looks.

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I am happy I decided to make the purchase as it can be used on my Sony A7s or on a Leica M-P. It also sharpens up more at f/2.8 and by f/4 will give you pretty nice consistent results without the swirl. Using the old-fashioned aperture system is quite nice actually. I haven’t lost one yet and I love the process of pulling one out and using the next, though I admit, I feel this lens is made for wide open use so I RARELY change it.

If this type of image rendering suits you, I highly recommend this lens. I feel in 10 years it will be desirable and one day even collectible if they stop production of it. Look at the Canon Dream lens. A few years ago you could buy one for $900, now expect to pay $4500-$5000 and up for a clean M mount version. (what I sold my last one for).

At $599, it is priced more than right IMO. You get a great experience from opening of the box, to holding the lens, to using it. There is only ONE complaint from me and that is the lens cap. It always falls off, so I usually leave mine off unless it is sitting on the shelf. Other than that it is just what I expected and I am really surprised that this lens was not priced a little higher due to the superb packaging, build quality, brass design and novelty of it.

Thanks Lomography!

You can buy this lens from Stephen Gandy at the link HERE. He ships FAST and is a great guy to deal with.

You can buy the Nikon to E-Mount adapter from him as well, using the direct link HERE.

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To help out it is simple. 

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Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Oct 072014
 

The Classic Leica 5cm Elmar f/3.5 Collapsable Lens on the Monochrom

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Hello to all! Happy Tuesday! It is 9 AM, I am sitting down at my desk to write this article with my morning coffee and a cookie. Life is good. Today I want to share my experience with an old classic lens. The gorgeous and TINY collapsible Leica Elmar 5cm f/3.5 Lens (50mm f/3.5). Yes, it is old, it is slow in aperture, but it is a beauty for shooting in decent light, especially with the Monochrom, which I absolutely adore. So why do I adore the Monochrom when it is just a black and white sensor camera? I mean, any camera can shoot in B&W, right?

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Yes. You can also convert using the pricey software solutions. Even so, I find there is nothing quite like using the Monochrom, or the quality I get from it when it comes to tonality, detail and overall look of the files. I also love using a rangefinder and since this one is based on the M9 body with a CCD sensor, it has a different look than most CMOS sensors made today. I especially like the fact that it is so simple. When using it you know what you are going to get. No color issues, no color casts, any lens can be used without issues and you do not have to fiddle with White balance or worry so much about high ISO as this guy shoots up to 10k with ease.

But today I want to talk briefly about a VERY classic lens. The Leitz 5CM f/3.5 Elmar. It is chrome and looks stunning on the Monochrom. It is tiny and weighs next to nothing. It is built and made to Leica standards and my copy that I found locally for $200 looks like it just rolled off the assembly line.

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My lens was made somewhere around the 1940’s but this lens was made through 1961. Even though my lens is more than 60 years old, it appears and functions as brand new. I bought it mainly just to have it, and seeing that it was so affordable I could not pass it up. I never thought it would get much use but I took it to Las Vegas with me last weekend when meeting up with some great guys from Germany at CosySpeed testing out some cool products.

I decided to take a 30 minute stroll around the strip to see who and what I could photograph. I found many people staring at the camera, some asking me if it was a film camera and others just saying “cool camera”! While most were shooting with iPhones, iPads and even quite a few Sony NEX cameras, no one was shooting with a Chrome Leica Monochrom with this classic lens attached :)

The lens will render in a classic way as it should for being a 60+ year old lens. 

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Being limited to f/3.5 Aperture scared me as I am used to shooting wide open at f/1.4 or f/2 most of the time. I realized that I may have a large DOF but hey, the old masters shot with lenses like this if not this exact lens for a while. I am nowhere NEAR as good as those guys..I am not even a pimple on their chin..but to use a lens that some of them used felt good and I knew the limitations and I accepted them. After I thought more about it I realized there were no real limitations and in fact, it should be easier to shoot with a lens like this as focusing would be made easier with a larger depth of field!

So away I went, walking, smiling, interacting, laughing and observing…

When you walk in Vegas be prepared for many who are only out to have a GREAT time..for many this is a break from stress, work, and their hectic lives so most are friendly and will be happy to let you snap their image..

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It was easy to use and shoot with this classic lens and I am pretty quick with a rangefinder and manual focus. I usually prefer to do more “street portraits” than “street shooting”. I find most street shots that people post online are usually quick sneaky grabs of people and many of them are not so good. I prefer some form of interaction with these people, some form of eye contact. A few words, or even a nod and smile. If they are receptive then I take a shot. Sometimes they are not and I still grab a shot but its all part of the experience of being immersed in the action…

This is one of the guys who pass out the cards for female strippers and escorts who come to your room..they usually hate their photo being taken, but this guy just gave me an odd look when I nodded and asked for a photo. He was probably wondering what I was using to snap the shot. 

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While this Elmar will not be a favorite of mine, it will be pulled out from time to time when I want to feel nostalgic and classic :) It’s a beautiful lens and if you find a mint copy for a good price SNAG IT! I find it worth it to have it in my collection for  the price I paid of $200.

A few more images below using this lens, at wide open at 3.5:

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Oct 062014
 

ttlexrev

The Leica X Typ 113  Review in under 3500 words. Gorgeous IQ, but with a flaw.

by Steve Huff

When I found out that Leica created a new “X” camera with a Summilux lens and a faster aperture of F/1.7 I was VERY happy. FINALLY! Leica created the X many of us have wanted…or did they? With all new stylish looks, a larger size using the X-Vario body, and a very GORGEOUS brown and silver color along with the stealthy black Leica has left out the built in EVF that 90% of us have been begging for. Why oh why? If an EVF was put in this camera it would have flown off the shelves!

Since the X was announced I have had no less than 100 e-mails telling me something like this:

“Steve! If the new X had an integrated EVF I would have pre-ordered instantly”!!

This also happened with the X2 to some extent but not like this. See, the X2 did not sell as well as the X1 due to the fact that it was so much like the X1. Same body, same lens, same everything besides a new sensor that at the time helped with high ISO. The X1 sold VERY well, it flew off of the shelves because it was the 1st of its kind, at the time. The X2 did not do as well as the X1 sales wise and Leica assumed it was because it did not have a zoom lens, so they made the X-Vario with a slow slow aperture zoom. The Vario sold even less than the X2. Ugg.

So this time, here in 2014, Leica decided to give us Leica fans (almost) what they wanted! An X camera with a FAST fixed Summilux lens. Usually a Summilux is an f/1.4 design but on the X it is (supposedly) an f/1.7 design. But before I get into the lens, let us get back to the missing EVF, that so many cameras today have.

I think I know why Leica did NOT include it (intreated EVF) in the new X, and in my opinion it is for a couple of reasons. Mainly, I think and would guess that they used the X Vario shells that did not sell to make the new X. The X-Vario did not have a built-in EVF so this one could not as well. It also seems they do not have the know how to do it as none of their German-made non Panasonic cameras have an EVF built-in. It could also be that they just want to milk us for more money so we buy the external $600 EVF that kills the beauty of the X camera (IN MY OPINION).

Who knows the true story but I was willing to overlook the EVF issue and just enjoy the camera, because it is one hell of a beautiful looking camera.

But is that beauty only skin deep?

The X look is here in full effect! I shot this at night as I was flying high in the sky in Las Vegas. I love the crisp look and vibrant colors. ISO 1,000, and this one was shot wide open as the subject was very far away, allowing the f /1.7 aperture to be used.

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With the excitement of the new faster Summilux lens I was ready to try it out and take some close up portraits just to see how nice the Bokeh would be when shot at f/1.7. Finally, we can get shallow DOF with an X! YES!

With a 23mm lens giving a 35mm equivalent this camera will still not be capable of extreme Bokeh effects because with the wide-angle lens (23mm) it is tough to get a very shallow DOF unless you shoot up close to your subject. No biggie right? I mean, how much shallow DOF do you need? Shooting this lens/camera up close at 1.7 would and should provide plenty of shallow DOF if that is what you are looking for. Better yet, it will open up to allow more light in for when you are in low light. Well, this is what I thought anyway.

First off, The X has the same 16.2 MP APS-C sensor as the X2 and X-Vario. Nothing new. It is basically an X-Vario with a new faster Summilux prime. Period. Basically the same AF performance, same IQ, same color signature, etc. So there is no need for me to re-hash the IQ performance. You can see that in my X2 and X-Vario reviews.

So off I go to start shooting the new X and I immediately see the same beautiful image quality that I was able to squeeze out of the X2 and Vario but one  thing was frustrating me…

This camera will NOT let you shoot at f/1.7 much of the time, unless your subject is far away! Well, FOUR FEET away.

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Frustration was kicking in as I was manually setting the aperture to f/1.7 using the MANUAL dials yet when I went to shoot an image the camera would change the aperture electronically to 2.5 or 2.8, even when the dial said 1.7! I thought it was a glitch, a firmware issue… but nope, I soon found out that this was done purposely by Leica!

What has been said is that this lens is not so good at close focus wide open when it does to image quality..meaning, the IQ suffers when shooting close wide open. So if you try to shoot wide open, for a head and shoulders portrait for example, you will not be able to. You lose that extra shallow DOF ability and what you get is VERY similar to what you would get from an X2. In fact, for 90% of my use the camera always went to f/2.5 or f/2.8. Why would I want to shoot a landscape at f/1.7? Close to mid focus distance will get you f/2.2 to f/2.8. Leica should have said this was a “Variable Aperture” lens as this is what it acts like I am sad to say.

Out of 100 images during my testing the camera shot around 4 or 5 at f/1.7  – the rest were between f/2.2 to f2.8. For me this negates the whole reason for the faster lens!! I mean, I may as well have been shooting with an X2! It is smaller, has no lens quirks and offers the same good looks and can be found for less money.

For me, if a lens is advertised as an f/1.7 lens it should shoot at f/1.7 when you want it to, not when IT wants to. No Leica should override your manual settings, period.

You need to be at around 4 feet from your subject to use f/1.7. Before that it works like a sliding scale from 1.7 at four feet down to 2.8 at its minimum focus distance. It will give you f/2, f/2.2 and f/2.5 depending on how close you are. 

Leica X – set for f/1.7 and camera shot it a 2.2 – self-reflection

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That X Image Quality..so beautiful!

As always with the X series, what struck me was the image quality. I love it. The crispness, the colors, the sharpness across the frame. Same as the X2 and Vario 100%. It is nice, I will give it that. The camera looks fantastic around you or when pulling it out of your bag and  it delivers gorgeous image quality in good light and good IQ in semi low light. It starts to fall apart in real low light and the focus starts to hunt some. Speed wise, it is pretty good considering this is a Leica :) With each release Leica seems to improve the AF ever so slightly.

Take a look at my X2 review HERE and my Vario review HERE to see the similarities in IQ. 

This is the DOF you can expect at f/2.8

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Basically though, this camera is pretty much an X2 in a Vario body and/or a Vario with a 23mm fixed prime lens. I have written extensively about those two cameras and to just write more of the same would be silly. This new X has the Vario body with an X2 and Vario sensor. Leica have done away with the small X1 and X2 size bodies and from now on will produce the X in this larger size, which is more like an M4 when it comes to size.

Truth be told, without a built-in EVF, it is not very inspiring to shoot. I had my A7s, Leica MM and this X with me for a Las Vegas weekend and using the X was odd compared to the other two cameras. I was constantly holding it out looking like an amateur or tourist and for me, this goes against the whole Leica philosophy!

Leica cameras have always had a viewfinder (in the past, the golden years) and these days, even with thousands asking for an X with a Summilux lens and built-in EVF they cripple it without an EVF and even cripple the lens by not allowing us to use it wide open in most scenarios! As I said, a bit odd but Leica has always been a bit odd, a bit quirky and a bit “we do it how we want, deal with it”.

While it retains the beautiful design, build and gorgeous IQ, it is less versatile than something like the Sony RX1. The RX1 is smaller, is full frame, will focus closer and has a magical Zeiss 35 f/2 lens built-in. The Sony also left out the EVF but I have a feeling that if and when an RX2 arrives it just night have an EVF. I sure hope so. The RX1 delivers more in low light with as much shallow DOF as you could want and while it does not have the brilliant color and crispness of the X files, it has its own unique full frame quality and look that is very desirable.

Many have asked me this question and NO, the new X typ 113 is in no way a Sony RX1 killer. Not at all. The X is a camera for those who want a beautiful camera to look at and use during decent light without expecting too much in the way of shallow DOF or high ISO abilities. At ISO 3200 it starts to get noisy and the AF lacks in these low light scenarios as well. This is not a low light camera even with the new lens. When I say low light I mean night-time indoors, or even evening indoors. This will not be a camera for those low light moody shots in a bar, for musicians on a lowly lit stage or even  on the street once the light goes down. Instead, the X excels in decent light where it can show off the amazing color and snap it has to the files that no other camera has.

It’s a strange thing really…

I love the camera for its design and image quality in most situations but I dislike that it has been crippled with the aperture as well as having to buy an expensive add on EVF that kills the looks and design (as well as making it harder to put into a bag). So for me, I will not be purchasing an X but I can understand how some will want to. Many of you may not have interest in shallow DOF or low light high ISO work. For you, this camera is a treat. It is smaller than the Vario due to the smaller lens and it feels really nice in the hand (unlike the vario which was odd with the long lens) and as I have said many times already, the IQ is fantastic with that Leica feel and look.

Click the image below to see them larger and see what I mean about the crisp Look.

The 1st one was shot at 1.7 but the camera gave me f/2.5, ISO 500

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 A reflection shot  – this one was shot at f/9

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Below at f/11. Good light, stopped down..nice looking files. Look at the red color how rich and distinct it looks. 

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So who will want this camera? X or T?

If you have been wanting a German-made Leica that has the beautiful looks of an M with the image quality of the X and you do not mind the aperture issue when shooting closer subjects OR the fact that the high ISO in low light is not as good as other competing cameras then I suspect you could be extremely happy with the X.

FULL SIZE SAMPLES:

Below are two full size samples from the new X. The first one is full light at f/2.8, ISO 100 and the second in actually quite good light, indoors with dull open doors and windows allowing light to flood in, yet the camera needed ISO 1600 at f/2.8. Click them for full size.

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FOCUS:

The AF is decent, and I had no issues with focus, at all. Engaging manual focus is easy, just twist the lens out of AF mode and away you go. There is even a distance scale on the lens for manual focus use that seemed to work well. Also, The LCD will show you the expanded magnified view so you can easily nail it, but for me, this method of focusing is slow. AF works just fine.

Nothing else gives the unique IQ of the X Series of cameras, but the T does since it shares the same sensor. I love the Leica T and the fact that M lenses can be used on it. It provides the X IQ but with a choice of lenses and in a more modern styled unibody. You can read my full T review HERE. The T will set you back more than the X because it is $1900 for the body only, and lenses are NOT cheap. The EVF for the X or the T will set you back $600. Yes, $600 for a wart that sits on top of the camera, IMO, destroying the looks of the X but with the T it seems to fit. The X is classic looking Leica, the T is modern-day Leica.

Again, set to f/1.7 but camera decided to shoot it at f/2.5. B&W High Contrast out of camera JPEG

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ISO 3200. If you click it you can see the camera starts to lose some DR at higher ISO, as well as color changes but still looks very nice and is 100% usable.

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Set for f/1.7 but camera gave me f/2.8 – ISO 1000  – put of camera B&W JPEG

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My final word on the Leica X with 23 f/1.7 Lens

I have been seeing a sort of backlash against Leica from new early owners of the X camera who are a bit upset at the fact that this camera will not let you shoot with the aperture set to f/1.7, as advertised, in many and most situations. If you want to shoot a head and shoulders portrait at 1.7, you can’t. If you want to shoot up close for a Bokeh effect at 1.7, forget it. Many have e-mailed ME complaining about it as if I were Leica and as soon as those emails started coming in I knew there would be more to come.

Leica probably could fix the issue with firmware but I am not sure they will as they chose to cripple the lens for a reason, supposedly that reason is due to the fact that the lens close focus wide open performance is below the quality levels they want to see. They do not want images online showing softness when wide open so to fix this they set the camera to automatically change the aperture if shooting up close wide open. Yet they advertise it as the new X with a Summilux f/1.7 lens even though you need to be around four feet from your subject or more to use the lens at f/1.7. Leica does not advertise this in their marketing blurbs, they just advertise it as an f/1.7 lens:

“The extremely fast initial aperture of its Leica-Summilux 35 mm f/1.7 ASPH. lens creates an exceptionally beautiful bokeh, as a result, the exploration of the creative possibilities of selective focus is fascinating and particularly rewarding with the Leica X. The lens is almost completely insensitive to flare and ghosting affects. And all this is possible without an extra lens hood. It delivers bright, clear, and incredibly sharp photos – from infinity to a close-focus distance of only 0.2 metres. As well the CMOS sensor of the Leica X fulfills what its APS-C format promises: outstanding photos with exceptional colour fidelity and the finest rendition of details – even in unfavorable light.”

Odd.

With that said, if you are up close, just like with the X2, you can shoot at f/2.8 and still get a shallow DOF, but you have to be CLOSE. The bag was my subject.

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For some this will not be a deal breaker, for others it will. Add to this the fact that they once again ignored the option of an integrated EVF and we have more who will not buy this camera. Then we have the same old sensor from the X2 and Vario, with no real enhancements to low light performance. Some are saying this is an old sensor in a snazzy new body.

The fact is that the new X CAN AND DOES deliver in image quality, giving that unique X look that other cameras do not give you. Even at f/2.8 you can still get some shallow DOF when shooting up close (as shown above) but still not as much as we expected to get at f/1.7. It is a gorgeous camera made to Leica standards and is like owning an X Vario body with a faster fixed prime lens. If the X-Vario was something you lusted after but with a smaller and faster prime, here you go. Just be aware that in many situations you will not be able to shoot wide open. Also keep in mind that this is still not a night-time or very low light camera. It is still at its best with good light.

The Leica X comes in at $2295, not as much as I thought considering the X2 came in at $1995 with the slower lens and smaller more compact body. At this price point there are many options out there from Sony, Fuji, and others. For example, the new X100T looks fantastic and comes in at $1295. It also has an APS-C sensor, and an f/2 35mm equivalent lens with a classic RF styled body including an integrated and super nice hybrid EVF/VF. It is a proven design that many adore. The Leica X has easy to navigate menus and is simple to set up and operate. That is one thing Leica excels at..simplicity…but are they trying to be too many things at one time?

I feel Leica should stop trying to be so many things for so many people. I believe they should offer just the M and T series but make another T with a built in EVF. Then we have an APS-C modern Leica and the classic full frame M series (both the MM and M versions). Both interchangeable lens cameras, and systems they could focus on 100%. I personally feel they should just drop the rest along with the Panasonic clones. Of course this will not happen but it seems that Leica may be losing sight of who they once were and what they need to offer to those who love Leica and what they stand for. With a C, X, M, T, D-Lux and V-Lux it just seems to be to much IMO.

Do you want the new X? The questions to ask yourself is: “Do I want a real German made Leica”? “Would I mind the negatives of this camera”?

$2295 is not cheap. It is a lot of money. For me, I was  bit let down due to the fact that when shooting I had to hold out the camera like a  tourist and in most cases, unless focusing close, the images lacked pop (for example, street shots). No internal EVF takes the excitement of the X down for me, as does the lens issue but at the end of the day I will always love that X IQ. It’s a tough call but one thing that can not be discounted is the IQ. It is superb. It is pure Leica X, and for that, for many, will be enough.

Steve

Below is my 1st look video on the Leica X before I discovered the Aperture issue:

WHERE TO BUY?

You can buy the Leica X from the 100% trusted and recommended dealers below:

Ken Hansen – email him at [email protected] (tell him I sent you!)

PopFlash.com

The Pro Shop

Amazon

B&H Photo

Leica Store Miami

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Oct 032014
 

Testing the Zeiss Loxia, ZM 35 1.4 and Otus lenses on the A7r

(some quick shots from Photokina)

by Dirk De Paepe

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Recapitulation of a Problem

Perhaps you look upon the Sony A7x series as the first full frame alternative to the Leica M: a compact, high quality full frame camera, that’s about perfect for manual shooting – although not without issues, but then, I’ve yet to see the first perfect camera. :-)

Today the A7s gets a lot of applause, not only for its high ISO capability, but also because it “fixed” some of the issues of the A7r: the shutter sound is one, but IMO the questionable compatibility with quite some M-mount wide-angle lenses is an even more important item.

For many photographers, the possibility of using the compact M-mount lenses on the A7x, via adapter, is one of the attractive features of those cameras. But particularly the corner problems that primarily the A7r poses, when used with (quite some) wide-angle M-mount lenses, are mentioned frequently as a set back, reducing the A7r owner’s choice regarding compact wide-angle glass. Not all M-mount wide angles pose this problem though: some of the Voigtländers work flawlessly. But most Leica M en Zeiss ZM wide angles render this purple/magenta color shift and smearing in the corners, which we really don’t want.

I own the Zeiss Biogon 28 ZM and have experienced it too. Although with certain apertures it’s possible to avoid almost all of the smearing and the color shift can most of the time easily be neutralized in Photoshop, still it limits the possibilities and ease of work. So I mainly use the Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 (very compact M-mount) and some wider Canon FDs as WAs for now. For now, indeed, because I was pretty confident that a “solution” would be in the make. As a matter of fact, I hoped for some time that Sony would somehow fix this problem. But is it really Sony’s problem to fix? Well, recently I changed my mind about it…

The solution has a name: Loxia.

When Zeiss announced its new Loxia series for Sony’s FE mount and when I saw that those were based on the compact ZM series, I immediately wondered: what about the corners when shooting a Biogon wide-angle on the A7r? The so far published images (that I’ve seen) didn’t mention which A7-type was used (there was no Exif data available), or they were taken with the A7s, on which the WA M-mount glass poses no problems. So I was stuck with the question: how will the new Loxia Biogon 2/35 perform on my A7r?

The Loxia Biogon 2/35 on the A7r

Living at less than 2 hours from Cologne, I decided to make the trip to Photokina, to get the answer. I was there on Saturday, when the fairground was pretty crowded, with lots of people thronging at the Zeiss technicians counter, wanting to get answers to their questions and trying all kinds of Zeiss lenses on all kinds of cameras.

So I had to take my shots pretty fast and I had to take them all from the same spot: my position at the technicians counter. Sorry for that. But my goal was not to shoot nice pictures, my goal was to get answers. Does the Biogon perform well on the A7r?

Short answer: YES it does! Absolutely!

I first checked if there was any color shift at the corners, putting the aperture wide open – the most sensible setting. With a booth made from white/greyish panels, it was easy to check. It’s very clear: the Biogon produces no color shift what so ever! It was immediately absolutely clear, from the first shot, but I can add to that: in none of my shots, at whatever aperture, there was even the faintest glimpse of color shift to be noticed.

Pic 1. Loxia 3/35, f/2, &/500s, ISO200. No color shift whatsoever. I focused in the left upper corner, to check the corner detail at f/2. IMO a bit ridiculous to absolutely want perfect corners when shooting wide open, but since some people come up with this issue, I wanted to check it. Next picture gives a 100% view of that corner

01. Loxia2-35 f2 corner focus

And what about the smearing? Well, again when shooting wide open the image remained pretty clear and detailed in the corners, with only some loss of detail in the farthest reaches and (IMO) no smearing. Considering how deep in the corners I’m talking about, I’d say only a slight loss of detail in the corners. But let’s be honest, when you really want every spot of your picture to be clear, you don’t shoot wide open, do you… In general I was absolutely astonished with the level of detail this Biogon renders at f/2. Without ever getting razor-sharp, the amount of detail is pretty amazing, even when looking at 100% and shooting with a 36MP sensor. And also the vignetting is at a very low-level, IMO negligible.

Pic 2. 100% crop. In the farthest reaches of the corners, there is some loss of detail. Not too much, I’d say, because I can even read numbers there. I certainly wouldn’t talk of smearing. There is some difference in detail to be noticed, due to some items being positioned slightly out of focus, like in the text on the left box. Don’t be mistaken there. Anyway, I find the detail that this Biogon renders wide open to be really astonishing. 

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Pic 3. Loxia 2/35, f/2, 1/60s, ISO250. Also the vignetting is negligible, even wide open. Focusing in the center.

03. Loxia2-35_f2 center focus

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Pic 4. 100% crop (click to see full size).. Without being razor-sharp, all the detail is there. No added sharpness.

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Pic 5. Loxia 2/35, f/2, 1/60s, ISO250. No 2/35mm renders a spectacular bokeh. Still this one is pretty smooth and for sure renders a nice 3D separation.

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Pic 6. Loxia 2/35, f/4, 1/60s, ISO400. DOF is a bit larger, still with beautiful bokeh, also in front.

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Pic 7. 100% crop (click to see full size).. Even at f/4 focusing needs to be done with care on the A7r. I missed the focus on the watch here and placed it on the guy’s shirt, revealing all the shirt’s detail…

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At the more narrow apertures, those that are used when pursuing a wide dof, the detail is excellent all over. Is it absolutely perfect? Well, no. This is no Otus, but a three times less expensive Loxia. Still, IMO, the IQ is excellent, with clear detail all over, although still slightly soft when looking at 100%, but not at all to the extend that one can call this a weakness.

Pic 8. Loxia 2/35, f/11, 1/40s, ISO400. Only cropped horizontally.

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Pic 9. Loxia 2/35, f/14, 1/10s, ISO400. Only cropped horizontally.

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Pic 10. 100% crop (click to see full size)..

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This is absolutely not a lens test, so I won’t go into all lens characteristics. I couldn’t take enough different pictures, nor perform tests to do that. I’m sure there will be enough articles in the near future from professional photography journalist that will come up with all the details.

Still, what I also noticed is some fringing (diminishing with narrower apertures of course), which I always could correct with great ease in Photoshop. I didn’t check the distortion, but personally I don’t mind that too much, since this is also easily correctable. BTW, I understand that Zeiss also gave extra care in that department, so again, I have no worries here. Overall, I liked very much what I saw, also regarding the OOC color balance, dynamic range etc. – so I’m very confident that I won’t be disappointed in this Biogon and that it’ll render a typical Zeiss IQ – I expect it to be even slightly better than my ZMs.

Improved optics

When I told the technician that I was pleasantly surprised, after being worried when I noticed the great similarity between the Loxia and ZM Biogons, and that I wondered how Zeiss has solved the corner problems without considerably lengthening the distance between back lens and sensor, he told me that the two Loxia lenses are admittedly built after classic Zeiss concepts, but that the whole calculation has been redone, resulting in differences in the thickness of the glasses and the space between them, whereby the light approaches the sensor in different angles, thus avoiding the known problems of the older ZM lenses (lenses that were conceived for film cameras and Leica digital cameras, not for mirrorless sensors). Even the Planar, that in ZM version doesn’t pose any problem at all on the A7r (and is BTW my personal favorite lens) has been reworked and optimized with enhanced performance. Regarding the Biogon, even after a few shots, I can without a doubt state, that they did a great job. I leave it to the professional reviewers to determine exactly how great. But I’m impressed. And excited. There simply is not a shred of color shift in the corners and wide open there’s only a slight decrease of detail in the farthest corners, which I wouldn’t call smearing at (far from what we know from the ZM Biogons, when used on the A7r). What I also noticed was that this lens renders about the same detail wide open as it does stopped down (with the exception of the farthest corners, as I said), which was a véry pleasant surprise. There is some vignetting wide open (but really not much) and some fringing as well (always very easily removable in Photoshop). What did you expect. This is no Otus, it’s not perfect. It’s three to four times cheaper than Otus and still is an excellent lens. I’m sure future tests will confirm this.

General Loxia advantages for Sony’s A7x

So the Biogon is absolutely “good to go” on the A7r IMO, or in other words, it’s a great option to buy, if you’re into manual prime glass. You won’t be surprised that I placed my order for both Loxias. Also the Planar, which maybe will surprise you, since I own the ZM Planar that really is without issues on the A7r. But Loxia offers a lot more than ZM. First there is the better optical performance (reworked for E-mount), then there is the shorter minimal focal distance (30cm for the Biogon and 45cm for the Planar versus 70cm for both ZMs), further there is the transmission of full Exif info, which I applaud because after a series of shots with different lenses I tend to forget what lens I used for which shot, let alone what aperture. Often I can “see the lens in the shot”, but really not always with absolute certainty. And I find it very interesting to know the exact aperture afterwards. And finally, the last big advantage of Loxia over ZM is the activation (which is to be programmed on your A7x) of the automatic enlargement in the VF, by the slightest movement of the focus ring, which completes all means for performing “modern manual focusing” on the A7x. IMHO, all the focusing functionalities of the A7x/Loxia strongly outperform any optical viewfinder. OK, a range finder is something special, but personally, I don’t wanna do without the modern EVF functionality anymore. No way. They abundantly outweigh the range finder’s advantages (all IMO of course).

Pic 11. Left half: Loxia Planar 2/50, f/16, 1/40s, ISO1600. Right half: ZM Planar 2/50, f/16, 1/40s, ISO1600. Both picture were shot at minimal focal distance – Loxia at 45cm, ZM at 70cm and they were only horizontally cropped. Impressive difference. A big advantage of the Loxia. (The ZM picture was shot back home.)

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Personally, I’m really thrilled about Zeiss developing the Loxia line. There has been lots of reactions on it, with many complaining about the first two lenses being 50 and 35mm again. Why not chosing other focal lenghts that people miss right now? The answer is really simple. Loxia is for a totally different type of photographer, namely the typical manual shooter, like I am. As much as I admire the image quality of the AF Zeiss lenses, I’ll never buy them because I don’t feel good when the camera decides for me. The only “automation” that I use is aperture priority and still, I’ll determine the exposure with the compensation dial or by holding the release button halfway while reframing.

The core of any optical system is, no doubt, the lens. I think we can say that Zeiss plays in the same league as Leica. Both have passionate proponents. I guess it’s probably the kind of photography one practices, that make one belong to either camp. Personally, I’d mix both brands, if the Leica prices were at Zeiss level. But they aren’t. So I don’t buy Leica… a personal matter.
The core of the body is, without any doubt, the sensor. Sony, a leader amongst sensor manufacturers has an excellent position in this department. The rest of the body is functionality, in other words advanced electronic applications, and build quality. It needs no saying that Sony is an electronics giant and in many branches, and in general the Sony quality is legendary. I’m not saying there are never issues with Sony products, everybody makes “mistakes”, but this a giant and I believe that this giant is determined to succeed in photography. So the Sony/Zeiss combination has for sure a lot of things in its favor. Now, with Loxia, the glass is perfectly maching the body, adapter free, with transmitted Exif data, automated magnification in the EVF and a design and feel that perfectly matches the body.

I told you that I already placed my order, even for the Planar, while I’m owning an Otus 55 ànd ZM Planar 2/50. But the Planar is my all time favorite lens. Its compact size, ease of use and always reliable IQ grants it this status. This is the lens that I always carry on my camera, making it possible to carry a high-res/high-IQ camera with me whenever I want, wherever I go to, without ever being bothered by it. Now, with the Loxia Planar, my carry-all-time lens will match my body for 100% and add some functionality that I welcome very much.

Loxia is made for sensors of mirrorless cameras, Zeiss ZM (and Leica M) is made for film. In its digital M bodies, Leica corrects its lenses with software. The Zeiss Loxia doesn’t need to be corrected, because it’s optically designed for sensor. BTW, I wonder if Zeiss doesn’t think of making Loxias in M-mount, or at least come up with a new generation ZMs, that would have the Loxia optics. Makes sense IMO.

The Otus 85 on the A7r

With so many Otus lenses on their Photokina booth, ready to try out, of course I asked for the new 1.4/85. You probably already knew from a former article that I own the Otus 55 and believe that Otus is a great combination with the A7r. This top-level Zeiss line is developed for the latest (and future) generations of hi-res sensors, and Sony plays a leading role in this, with the A7r still leading the pack. So I pulled out my Novoflex adapter and mounted the Otus 85 on the body. The bystanders payed extra attention, when I then pulled a vertical grip out of my bag and mounted it with some swift moves on the A7r body.
My goal was in no way to test the lens on itself. Knowing the 55 and reading from all thrustful sources that the 85 is even a todd better (is it really possible?), I have not the slightest doubt that this lens will perform to its expectations. What I was curious about was how it felt in the hand, when mounted on the A7r, and I also wanted to get the “focus experience” at f/1.4, because already with the 55, focusing at 1.4 needs to be done with great care.
I immediately felt that the 85 is an even heavier and thicker beast than the 55. It’s a muscle trainer for sure. I don’t know how long I would be able to shoot continuously with it, I can only say that I felt it considerably more than when holding the 55. But I can’t tell if it’s only because the physical geometry is different and that it’s gonna be a matter of getting used to it, or if it really would tire me out faster. But what I can tell you for sure is, that, with the same way of holding it as I described in my Otus 55 article, this lens/body combination lies incredibly stable and well-balanced in the hand. I already said that the shots were to be made fast at the Zeiss technicians booth, so I took a fast picture of the gentle technician that was helping me. He was standing pretty close, at the other side of the counter. I focused on his eyelashes and took the shot at 1/25sec, which is in fact insanely slow for an OOH shot with a 85mm lens. But the total absence of motion blur proves the perfect balance of this lens/body combination, again indicating that the A7r is a body worth considering for use with the Otus 85, as it is with the Otus 55. That’s exactly what I wanted to know with my trial shots.

Pic 12. Otus 1.4/85, f/1.4, 1/25s, ISO100. Shooting at this shutter speed with an 85mm lens is only possible when the lens/body combination is in perfect balanse, which IMO is the case with the A7r + vertical grip. At the crowded Zeiss booth, this shot of a (very busy) Zeiss technician needed to be taken in seconds.

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Pic 13. 100% crop (click to see full size). What stroke me is the extremely shallow dof. I don’t know how this can be possible (maybe somebody can explain), but I have the impression that the Otus 85 produces an even more shallow dof than the Canon FD85 at f/1.2, that I also own. And if not, it must be véry close. But for sure, I’d swear it’s the Otus that wins this trophy. While the eyelashes are in focus, the eyeball is already out of focus. The eyebrow is only partly in focus. At this distance, I normally wouldn’t take this shot at f/1.4, because I’d surely want a somewhat larger dof. Still it’s nice to have the potential at hand and for greater distances it will surely do a great job.

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Focusing at f/1.4, for use at full size images with a 36MP sensor (or more in the near future), must be done with the greatest care. This was no surprise to me, with my experience with the Otus 55, it was just a confirmation. It’s odd that I have the impression that focusing the Otus 85 at f/1.4 requires even more precision than with my Canon FD85 at F/1.2. I even think to notice an even shallower dof with the Otus. It’s just an impression, a feeling. But a strong one. Maybe it’s because of the incredible detail Otus renders, combined with 36 megapixels. Again, I didn’t perform test procedures with this in mind, it’s just a feeling. BTW, I love the FD85/1.4.
Last thing about the Otus 85: I absolutely love the super creamy bokeh!

Pic 14. Otus 1.4/85, f/1.4, 1/20s, ISO100. Only horizontally cropped. Is this a creamy bokeh or what?…

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The ZM Distagon 1.4/35

By then, after shooting the Otus 85, the guys behind me were increasingly insisting to get a place at the counter. But still I managed to get the new ZM Distagon 1.4/35 for a few super fast shots. I simply wondered whether Zeiss, knowing of the problems that some of the ZMs have with modern hi-res sensors, would take this into account when developing new wide-angle ZMs. I quickly took two shots with the new ZM Distagon. In the first I just shot the grey-ish white wall, to check for color shift. The picture is absolutely dull, of course, but it was conclusive: no color shift.

In the second (and last) super fast taken shot, I focused on a guy in the upper left corner, to check for smearing. No smearing (although the picture isn’t perfect, with a tiny bit of motion blur, but no smearing). What I did notice in those shots was that, wide open, the vignetting and fringing was more prominent than with the Loxia Biogon. But then, this is a f/1.4 vs. the f/2 Loxia. So this is normal. And nothing that I couldn’t correct in Photoshop.

So I guess that future Zeiss ZM lenses will work perfectly on film bodies, Leica M bodies ànd fullframe mirrorless bodies – from Sony and other brands to follow.
And I’m very much looking forward for future new products in their new lines, Otus and surely Loxia. I’ve been having a soft spot for Zeiss for about 50 years now. I think this spot is only going to further grow in the years to come… :-)

Pic 15. ZM 1.4/35, f/1.4, 1/25, ISO100. A clearly more explicit bokeh than with the Loxia 2/35, but also more fringing (as well as vignetting, which this pic doesn’t show clearly) – though nothing that can’t be corrected, I guess.

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Pic 16. Defringed crop. I thought, since the shot was not really OK, it wouldn’t be fair to show the fringing. So I corrected it in Photoshop for this crop.

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Epilogue

IMO, the Loxia line, once it’s to be completed as yet, will definitely turn the A7x series into today’s superior compact system for manual shooting, offering a more modern concept than Leica. I can truly say that I don’t dream of Leica anymore. This Sony/Zeiss FE-system really is more desirable to me than the Leica M-system – outperforming it (again IMO) and… reasonably priced! My personal dream of today: owning both the A7r (for resolution) and A7s (for ISO) with a complete set of Loxias. But what I expect (of course I can’t be absolutely sure about it) is a future Sony sensor that will combine resolution and high ISO. I’m sure it will happen, maybe in some years time, but probably earlier than I expect. And it will be mounted in an FE-mount Alpha body! Thàt will be my next camera…

Dirk De Paepe

B&H Photo sells the Loxia lenses HERE, the OTUS is HERE and the new Zeiss 35 1.4 ZM is HERE

Sep 262014
 

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A quick 1st look video on the Petzval Art Lens!

Received this gem yesterday from Cameraquest.com and upon opening the package I was surprised at the quality of the packaging, and then the gorgeous hefty all brass lens inside. For me, at $600, this lens is priced JUST RIGHT as you are getting not only a unique lens for those times when you want that classic look and wild bokeh, but you are also getting a piece of art in the lens itself, which is a huge conversation starter. Go out shooting with it and you will be stopped throughout the day asking what you are shooting with.

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Besides being an 85mm f.2.2 lens, it is a classic formula and will give you a classic look. The original Petzval lens was created by Joseph Petzval and this one is sort of a replica though not quite the same of course. Even so, this lens will give you some crazy unique portraits with bokeh that is out of this world. My full review will be up within 2-3 weeks but for now, check out my 1st look video below! I will state that it is easy to focus using focus peaking on my Sony A7s, no issues at all, and quite easy to nail/hit focus.

You can order this unique lens at CameraQuest.com HERE. 

Sep 252014
 

New items in house: Leica X, Petzval Lens, Ibelux 40mm f/0.85, Lytro Illum

Finally! I expected most of these a couple of days ago but it all landed today. The UPS guy thought it was Christmas at the Huff Household with boxes from Leica, B&H Photo and Cameraquest. For me, it felt like “OH MAN! I AM GONNA BE BUSY”!!!

1. The Leica X with 23mm f/1.7 Summilux Lens

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Over the next 2-3 weeks I will be posting reviews for the new Leica X with 23 1.7 Summilux lens (35mm equivalent). The camera looks and feel gorgeous, much like the X2 but with a larger lens. I have the silver and brown and it is a stunning color combo. I shot off 5 shots in my yard just to make sure it powered up and worked OK out of the box and it did. AF seems faster than the X2, maybe the same as the X Vario. Image quality seems similar to the X2 and X-Vario in color, tonality, sharpness, etc. So very nice IQ.

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So look back next week for a possible first look of the X.

2. The HandeVision IBELUX 40mm f/0.85 Lens for APS-C cameras (Sony mount in hand)

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This lens is LARGE and HEAVY. It is an f/0.85 lens of high quality and comes in at over $2000. It is packaged much like a Leica lens and even includes a very Leica like leather lens case. Also, lille the Leica Noctilux it has quite a bit of CA/Purple fringing wide open in high contrast areas. I will be testing it on the Sony A6000 as this is NOT a full frame lens. For me, it may be too large to really enjoy but I am sure the IQ will be superb. I will be shooting some portraits with it this weekend. Available now at B&H Photo.

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The box and Leica like case is above.

3. The Petzval Lens

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Stephen Gandy of cameraquest.com sent me this lens to test and told me I could buy it if I liked it :) I have wanted to give this lens a try for a while now just due to its uniqueness in look, design and build. Of course it is a replica of the old original Petzval lens that was originally made in Vienna in 1840. This is a “artsy” special effect lens IMO and sometimes this kind of lens and effect can make your photos stand out. Cameraquest is a dealer and sells this lens. :) Check it out here.

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I will have some 1st shot samples by the end of the weekend with this lens, so stay tuned! What I like is that this is a full frame lens, so should be great on the A7s :)

4. The Lytro Illum

This ons I am lukewarm on because I tested the old light field camera and thought it was an overpriced toy. Many love the new Illum though and I am happy to give it a whirl. I took it out of the box and it is huge, long and feels odd but I will give it a full rundown over the next 2-3 weeks.

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Sep 252014
 

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The New Upgraded Wotancraft Scout and Ranger bags 2014

“With signature elements of rugged authentic leather and distressed hardware,
new City Explorer integrated WotanCraft’s latest developed exclusive “WAL canvas spec.1.6”
a composite waxed fabric material never seen in camera bag creations,
combining 3 crucial features of a protective bag:

WATERPROOF, ABRASION-RESISTANT, LIGHTWEIGHT”

Hey guys! I have a new video review of two new upgraded bags from Wotancraft, the new SCOUT & RANGER bags from their City Explorer line. If you remember my last Wotancraft review it was for the Ryker, which is my #1 fave every day bag ever. I use it every day and it has been with me everywhere, been rained on, been in the swamps and has been sitting in the 110 degree heat in the AZ desert. It is only getting better and better. The only issue with the Ryker is that it is too small for traveling and carrying larger things like camera gear, laptop, chargers, etc.

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The new 2014 Ranger AND Scout have a new material that is 50% lighter, waterproof and abrasion proof. They are attractive, feel great on and look great as well. THEY LOOK RUGGED and feel rugged. They are not as fancy as the Leather Ryker but they are just as beautiful and many will prefer this look over the Ryker for their personal use.

The entire City Explorer line has received the new material treatment, which is pretty fantastic.

Check out my look at these two bags in my video review below:

When the Ranger arrived to me I was VERY impressed. The bag arrived in a nice cloth outer bag to protect it and WOW..the construction is just off the charts. The hardware, the function, the features and the style..love it all. After the Ryker I became a huge Wotancraft fan. After the Ranger and Scout, I am even more of a fan. I also started to check out the other goods they sell and am impressed with what I see on their website as they have some pretty cool and beautiful accessories, even watch straps!

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For traveling the Ranger will be a good bag to choose. For every day, the Ryker or Scout is the one for me. 

You can read much more and see more and order these bags over at Wotancraft by using the direct link HERE

  

Sep 232014
 

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Jupiter 8: A cheap and lovely character lens for your Leica M or Sony A7 camera

The best $30 I have ever spent? This old, beat up, tiny 50mm f/2 Jupiter 8 Russian lens. Yes, I bought this lens on the cheap locally here in Phx AZ along with a Jupiter 9, which is an 85mm f/2 for $70 or so (though the 9 is a tad off with focusing on my M). I never owned a Jupiter though they have been around forever and what has kept me away from them is the fact that many say they are not very good lenses, will not focus correctly or are just plain cheap in construction. Well, taking all of that in to consideration I decided that $30 would be a no brainer way to test out the Jupiter 8 and I am glad I did as this is truly a “no guilt and no buyers remorse” lens. For $30, it could easily be resold if I did not like it, but again, at this kind of money, this lens will always be in my kit for when I want the character of this lens. I am a huge fan of classic Rangefinder lenses and many of them are better to me than modern-day pricey lenses.

Shot wide open at f/2 on the Sony A7s with the only purpose being to show the Bokeh. This was shot up at some trees and defocused

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I have always seen these lenses for sale on E-Bay for pretty cheap prices but samples online that show the softness, low contrast and strange rendering put me off on the Jupiter 8. While I am looking around for a decent Jupiter 3 now, the 8 has actually surprised me with just how sharp it can be, even at f/2. In addition, it has that classic Zeiss Sonnar rendering that I recognize. I will say though that an article on this very website is what really had me really wanting to give these lenses a shot. You can see that article HERE.

At f/2 focusing correctly on the Leica Monochrom. Yes, this lens focuses great on my MM. Click the image to see just how sharp it is, you may be amazed that a cheap lens such as this one can do this!

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…and it works just as well on the A7s, even for B&W :)

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Dreamy, Creamy and Classic

Basically what this lens will deliver is nothing like what a Leica Summicron or Summilux will bring you. I have talked any times about lenses being like the artist’s brush. Choosing a specific lens will help you create the vision you are looking for whether that is in the form of a Leica Noctilux, Canon Dream Lens, or a Zeiss 50 Planar. This Jupiter 8 reminds me most of the Zeiss 50 Sonnar but for 1/30th the price! While not as nice as the Zeiss in build, feel, or IQ, it has something unique about it that I can enjoy from time  to time. IN color on the Sony A7s it is gorgeous (for me) even though the Bokeh is a teeny bit nervous at times. Other times it is silky smooth.

These three test shots were taken to show the rendering and bokeh and color. All on the fantastic A7s. Click them for larger and better viewing experience! 

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Portraits

Some people use this lens for portraits due to its softer look when wide open (when compared to critically sharp lenses like a 50 Summicron or APO or 90 APO) and I tested it and found it to be lovely. The lens does feel cheap in construction but it has lasted this long so I assume to will last me many more years to come. At this price, the Jupiter 8 is a bargain of massive proportions. A fun lens to have around and mess with when you want a classic creamy look.

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So for anyone who wants to try out a new lens but you do not want to put a dent in your wallet, give a Jupiter 8 lens a try. It may surprise you. Many say that when being used on a Leica M that the lens may need shims to get it to focus correctly. My copy did not need this but I guess some do. It is a small, light, oddball lens but it works nicely for some applications. I will be using it again and again, and for Sony A7 shooters, using this lens with the Voigtlander close focus M to E adapter, it is lovely and a breeze to focus.

Highly recommended!

Steve

PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

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Sep 222014
 

Convert a Leica M3 to Digital with Sony A7 Sensor! Kickstarter


How cool would it be if you could take a Leica M3 and plop in a Sony A7 full frame sensor, and use that M3 as a full digital camera with the possibility to swap sensors in the future? I remember talking about this 8-9 years ago with a few people and today, it could be a reality if this kickstarter takes off! Well, for the guy making it anyway.

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There is not much for ME to say so I will link you to the Kickstarter itself which you can see HERE. All that is needed to fund this one is 3,000 british pounds. That is it. He is up to 640 now, so should not be a problem getting it going.

He also has a website HERE with more explanation on his FIRST project, the Frankencamera I which was a Konica S3 turned into a digital. Check it out as this could be uber cool if it actually happens.

A Leica M3 rangefinder converted to digital with a full frame Sony sensor could be something to behold!

 

Sep 212014
 

A Quick Look (with samples) at the new Voigtlander 15 4.5 II VM Lens by Foto Ingo

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From the Specs Sheet : Super Wide Heliar 15mm F4,5 VM II aspherical Here we proudly present a completely new ultra wide-angle lens.

Current high-resolution digital cameras are demanding and so they often need a new lens construction to satisfy those megapixels in regard to sharpness, detail, colour and so on. A lot less colour-shift in the corners even (when combined with really high resolution) and better contrast, especially when using the widest aperture, are the main differences between the current and the NEW Heliar 15mm.

The NEW 15mm Heliar consists of 11 elements in nine groups.

Hello Everyone!

I’m a long term reader of Steve’s Site and it wasn’t until “The Criuse” 2012 that I was to meet him, his beautiful fiancée Debby and some other interesting people… It was an awesome trip for sure. So many friendships were born back then. But back to the present (or future??).

Right now I use a Sony A7 and an A6000 with various manual lenses (and some Sony lenses) and I’m  kind of happy with everything… Except for the fact that there was no small “rangefinder like” wide angle available for the A7/A7r series. Today I visited Photokina in Cologne (1 hour drive from where I live) and had the chance to check out the new Voigtlander 15mm for M-Mount II !! I was really happy that I had my A7 and my Leica M to NEX with me when I heard that I could use it on my own camera and take pictures with it!  (Delivery should start in February 2015!!!)

So, I thought I would give my findings to Steve and all lovers of the A7 series.

Summary: I could see no or maybe a REALLY small amount of color cast in the corners ! (maybe it was only a tiny bit of vignette?) I could see no or maybe a REALLY tiny bit of vignette ! The sharpness is nice and NOT much mush in the corners ! I sold my 15mm M39 only 1 week before so I can tell you, that the differences are HUGE ! I will preorder it for my A7 the day it becomes available ! (depending on the price of course) No word on the price so far, but I ́m really looking forward to February 2015 and not only because I have my birthday there… ;-) Thx everyone and good night.

Ingo Schäder www.Fotoingo.com

Quick Samples below:

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Sep 192014
 

New Reviews on the Way! Leica X, Zeiss Touit 50 2.8, IBELUX 40mm f/0.85, more!

 

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Next week I should have a few new items in my hands for review. First up, the Leica X with the new 23 1.7 Summiulux ASPH lens. The X many of us have been asking for (though without the integrated EVF that we BEG for) with the faster glass and stunning Leica looks. How will it hold up? From early reports and images I think the image quality will be just as it always has been, pure Leica. Even the X1 and X2 have the Leica signature, so this one will have even more of it I think due to the lens. I will so a 1st look report as soon as it arrives to me.

Also coming in next week is the Zeiss Touit 50 2.8 for the E mount system as well as the Ibelux 40mm f/0.85 for the APS-C E-Mount system. Two lenses I am happy to test on my Sony A6000 as they are APS-C lenses.

The Ibelux 40mm f/0.85 for APS-C Sony E-Mount. What a killer lens for the Sony A6000! Click here to see more at B&H Photo on this lens. 

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Finally, the Lytro Illum is coming and that should be VERY interesting indeed. I reviewed the original LYTRO long ago HERE and was not a fan. I am hearing the new Illum is pretty good, but IMO, will still be very limited. Nice to see them pushing the technology though. Will report with a 1st look next week.

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I want to wish everyone here a happy weekend and be safe, be happy and get out there and shoot!

Sep 182014
 

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Re-Visiting the Canon Dream Lens, 50 f/0.95

When we choose and buy our cameras some of us fail to realize that the heart of our camera is not our sensor or the camera body itself, it is the lens. The lens is what makes the camera “see”..it is what delivers the image to the sensor..it is the eyeball of your camera. The better the lens, the sharper your image, the more correct and richer the color saturation and you will also have the least amount of distortions. Choosing the right lens for your camera is the same thing as a painter choosing the right brush for whatever job they are doing.

For example, if I want a nice portrait lens when I am shooting a Leica M, it is hard to go wrong with a 90 Summicron APO. if I want wide angle, there is the Voigtlander 15 or Leica WATE. When I want subject isolation , a 50mm Summilux or Noctiliux fits the bill. Each lens delivers a different look, this is a fact. Some lenses are soft, have distortions and issues, yet they can still create a nice image. Some lenses create sloppy or horrible bokeh and others will give you creamy bokeh that just melts. Again, choose the lens for what you are trying to achieve.

Lenses ARE the heart of your camera system yet so many of us skimp on the lens. I wonder why? Why am I babbling on about this? Well, it is a longish story but one that I am happy to tell because the lens I am talking about today is a special one, and even a controversial one at times, but it is a beautiful lens to me regardless. One of those lenses you pull out when you want THAT look that only it can give.

Over a year ago, in June of 2013, I wrote a review on a unique lens that had gained a cult following of sorts. A lens that was known for having a crazy “dream like” rendering when shot wide open at its uber fast aperture of f/0.95. Up there with lenses like the original Noctilux or the Canon 85 1.2L. The Canon was a lens that I never saw in the flesh but was wowed by in photos (sometimes) that were taken by others using the lens. It was a quality that I never saw in ANY other lens, cheap to crazy exotic. While a lens like the Leica Noctilux is technically superior to this “Dream Lens”, it can not do what this lens does and vice versa.

The Canon 50 0.95 “Dream Lens” was originally made for the Canon 7 Rangefinder film system of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The 50 f/0.95 was the super fast aperture solution when shooting the Canon 7, and when you look on E-Bay or classifieds for this lens today you will mainly see it in the Canon 7 Rangefinder mount which is unusable for Leica M shooters unless it is modified for M mount use.

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There have been a few of these 50 0.95’s sent in for a Leica M conversion and some have been done horribly bad, some have been done pretty nicely, and some have been done superbly, as in, they could not have done it better. Some have even added a 6 bit code to the lens so the digital Leica M will recognize it as a Noctilux and apply corrections. Pretty slick.

To those who own this lens in M mount, they usually adore it and most say they would never sell it. Because of this,  you do not see too many out there in great shape with a proper M mount conversion because if you do sell your mint M mount copy, chances are it will be very hard to find another just as good, ever. I should know, that is exactly what happened to me. After writing my review over a year ago I had a flood of e-mails offering me crazy money to buy my lens. I loved it and did not want to sell but I usually love money more than gear and get it when I can (money), especially if it ended up where I actually made a few bucks. So I sold my last version over a year ago which was an 8/9 out of 10 for condition, focus and IQ. It was so so good!

Of course, after I sold the lens I missed it within 2 days, even with $3500 in my bank account from the sale. I regretted that sale more than almost any other sale I have made in my photographic life. WHY? Not because this lens was such a technological marvel, or super sharp or up there with the likes of the Noctilux. Nope. I missed it because when I was shooting a 50 Lux the day after I realized I would never again have that special look that this lens gave me. In reality, this lens is a special effects lens when shot wide open and when shot from f/2 on it is like a normal fast lens but very sharp and with a very creamy draw. But it is the wide open use is what gave this jewel its nickname of Dream Lens. It renders the background into a dream like blur. A watercolor effect almost. It is pretty amazing IMO. As I said, nothing like it out there and to be able to use it on a Leica M or Sony A7, in full frame, as it was meant to be shot but with modern ISO capabilities..wow. Take a look at the Flickr page for the Dream Lens, which has been up for years and funny enough, was started by Ashwin Rao! LOADS of samples there that will show you what this lens does.

So yea, I missed it after I sold it. Damn! Even though my last copy sold for $3500, and I had a few who wanted it at that price, and even one offer at $4000 that came after I sold it, I still regretted the sale.

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So I started my search for another MINT copy

Since the last sale I kept an eye on e-bay and some classified sites searching for the perfect copy of this lens. I was picky. I was waiting patiently for the “one”, hopefully a 9/9.5 out of 10 and I wanted a hood, cap and 6-Bit coding. I was ready to pay up to $3k for one and did see some on E-bay from China that were selling for $2800-$3000 but was hard to trust those sellers as you never know just how the lens will be. Will the focus be spot on for the RF? Will it be clean without scratches or haze or fungus? It was a chance and shipping from China to the USA was a little risky, though it could have and most likely would have worked out fine. Still, I waited until I came across one that was either local or close to it.

Then I found one…

Then, as I was ready to lose patience and jump to buy a “92 out of 100″ rated dream lens on e-bay from a vendor in China I saw a a Facebook notification, as it was a sign.. it was a a post with images of a MINT M Mount Canon 50 0.95 with 6 bit coding. Hmmm. I even knew the guy, Jeff Warren, as he was at my last workshop in Nevada! He even lived in Los Angeles, a 5-6 hour drive from me. Jeff hinted that he MAY be selling in that Facebook post so I messaged him and we chatted, I thought for a bit and I bought it. He even sent it Fed Ex overnight, the same day, for no extra charge. I received the lens in less than 24 hours from the moment that I sent him the money via Paypal, 19 hours to be exact.

My main concern was that it would be off with the Rangefinder of the Leica because at 0.95 there is a VERY thin DOF. Any misfocus would be a nightmare as I have experienced first hand with a few fast lenses over the years.

Luckily it arrived and it looked amazing, a solid 9/10. The glass was/is perfect. No issues. I mounted it to the MM (no need for an adapter as this is M mount with 6 Bit) and fired away some shots. Perfecto! I mounted it to the A7s with a Voigtlander M to E adapter and even more WOW. Was so awesome shooting it on the A7s. Easy to focus with the large EVF and it felt really good on the A7s body. NOW THIS is a low light combo to dream for.

ULTRA THIN DOF at 0.95 – Sony A7s.  Some vignetting when used on the A7s at 0.95, that is the only issue. Look how TINY the in focus area is on the block wall. The rest is not lens softness, it is BOKEH, all out of focus due to the extremely small depth of field. 

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Regrets?

So after a couple of hours being happy as a newborn baby with a mouthful of milk I asked myself…”so, do you regret buying this for so much money“? My answer to myself was NO!! I was HAPPY, I was THRILLED, I was ECSTATIC. I told myself that I would not sell this one. But I have been here before, with many lenses that I swore I would never sell. None of them have tugged at me like this one though. Sure, I have owned them all – the Noctilux f/1 and 0.95, the SLR Magic 50 T 0.95 Hyperprime, the Mitakon Speedmaster and of course the Summicrons and Summilux lenses, which are all gorgeous and technically amazing. But this lens just does something special and while it is not an every day lens, it could be if you stopped it down to f/2 or f/2.8.

I am going to start using this lens with the A7s, MM and M in various locations and clubs shooting local live bands, which on many occasions shoot in near darkness to small crowds, ver small crowds. This is a lens that will do great things in these scenarios I think. I am also going to bring it out for certain portrait sessions, to add that extra flair and uniqueness that you do not see in many photos these days. I am not talking about just doing the whole shallow DOF Bokeh thing, but using it artistically and effectively.

I missed focus on this one with the A7s somehow, but I still like it :) A B&W filter was applied in processing.

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The fact is that this lens brings us a “draw” that no other lens does. Period. This lens is also pretty rare set up in an M mount with 6 Bit coding. It is even rarer to find this in a 9/10 condition. I am vowing to hang on to this lens!! Hehehe. We will see.

When I wrote about this lens in my 1st review I mainly used it with the M 240, which also rocks with this lens. Since I did that review with the M, I wanted to focus on using it with the A7s and Monochrom this time around, so this is what this article will be about.

The Canon 50 0.95 on the Sony A7s. I also have my JB grip on the camera as well as a ARTISAN OBSCURA sticky soft release.

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First up, the Sony A7s and the 50 0.95

With the new Sony A7 series, particularly the A7s (my fave of the three) this lens takes on a whole new world of possibilities. For one, this classic fast lens can now be used on a full frame mirrorless camera with integrated EVF and up to insane ISO’s. Much like the Mitakon I reviewed a while back, this lens will make the A7s a true king of the night. At f0.95 and ISO capability up to 100k usable, there will be no light that you can not shoot in, period. Add to that the moody possibilities and artistic weirdness that the Dream Lens puts out and you can create images that not many others can even get close to in style and flash. Of course, you have to know your stuff..know what you are doing, otherwise the images will look bad, even VERY bad.

But use your skill to its fullest and you can create some interesting images that are worthy of framing. Images that people will see and say “wow, how did you do that”.

When this lens is on the A7s using the Voigtlander close focus adapter you can focus in VERY close. MUCH closer than you can when using it on the M or MM. This is invaluable and will even make the dream lens MORE dreamy. It is true, when this lens was given the name “Dream Lens” it was for a reason. Just take a look at my original review to see some dreaminess with the M 240.

When I used this lens with my well used A7s, I think it was the best ever match for this lens, and the good news for A7 shooters is that you do not need to find the rare M mount version to use this on the A7. you can now buy a standard Canon 7 version of this lens, of which they are plentiful on e-bay, and use a canon 50 0.95 to E mount adapter. This can save you about $1,000 when buying the lens if you only want to use it on a Sony A7 body.

After realizing this, I started to really realize how special the Sony A7 series is. I mean, I knew it was already but there is no other full frame system out there that can do what the A7 series does, especially the A7s. This is the 1st ever camera, full frame, that will allow you to use this Dream Lens and even use it with close focusing, AND nail focus due to the critical focus you can achieve with the EVF and magnification.

I love this on my MM and M but for the ultimate Dream Lens experience I think it should be shot on an A7s. End of story. After using it with the A7s I wanted to carve my name in the side to assure I never am tempted to sell it for some quick cash. :) I did not do this of course but I have to say, I love this lens. Below are some images with it on the Sony A7s.

All images below are from the Sony A7s and Canon 50 0.95, WIDE OPEN. You must click on the images  to see them larger and in the correct way. If you do not, you will not see  them the way they were meant to be seen.

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As you can see this lens can perform well on the Sony A7s, in daylight or in darkness. In fact, I prefer it to the original Leica Noctilux f/1. It is sharper at the focus point and has a nicer draw for my tastes. It is also easier to hold and balance on the camera. The more I use this lens on the A7s and Leica cameras, the more I realize just how special of a lens it is. At the average cost of $3-$3500, it is a great lens to add to your collection if the look and capabilities it can offer are to your liking.

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On the Leica MM this lens is a wonderful match as is any classic lens. I feel the Mono is at its best with classic glass over modern analytical glass and this Dream lens helps to round it all out. The IQ is stunning and while not like a Noctilux 0.95 in perfection it has its own Mojo going on that can not be denied.

Before I keep on going on about my love for this lens, I will say that not everyone will like this lens. Some will HATE it. Many like what I call “The Summicron Look”, which is clean, crisp, sharp and even. Many who love that look HATE the look of the Canon Dream Lens. They will say the Bokeh is awful and busy and the lens is soft (it is not soft though). So before you even think about this lens,make sure you LOVE what it does because if you do not then you will tire of it.

With that out of the way, using it on the MM is quite lovely. You lose the closer focusing of the A7s but you are shooting in pure B&W and this lens loves B&W. It has a nice micro contrast  that is gentle and allows your subject to pop while the edges and background just melt away into a fantasy land. Wide open it is quite crazy. Stopped down it is nice and smooth.

The main issue with users of the Leica M or MM is you want to make sure the M mount Dream Lens you find/buy is good with your cameras RF. Many old lenses are off, and if your lens or your camera is off just a hair, the lens will be a challenge to focus. If possible, test the lens before buying, which in 99% of cases is impossible I know.

The B&W from the MM and this lens is richer than the A7s with B&W. It’s a whole different style of shooting as well, much different. RF shooting is something that will be rewarding when you get out there and get those shots using manual focus and manual controls.

Below are a few shots with this lens on the Monochrom.

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Getting the most from the Dream Lens requires a few things..

If you choose to buy or use this lens or even if you have one and are thinking, “My shots do not look that good, mine are low in contrast and softer and do not pop like these”, then read on as I will tell you how to get this look from this lens. The Canon 50 0.95 lens is a lens with lower contrast than most modern lenses so when you process the photos you must do a couple of things to bring out the goodness in the files :)

First, PLEASE shoot RAW. This is not an OOC JPEG type of lens. For you to get the best from it you need to bump the contrast and add some sharpening as well. I shoot RAW and when processing the RAW file I bump the contrast slider up until it looks good without going overboard. I also mess with the shadow slider to bring out shadows that were covered by the contrast slider. I may also tweak the highlight slider if needed. Add some sharpening and convert that file to a JPEG. That is all you have to do, but when you do it take s an OK image and makes it into one that will be much nicer looking. To those who complain about this lens saying it is soft, low contrast, or has issues..well, you either have a bad copy or are not using it correctly. I recently saw a comment on a popular forum that was a reply to someone asking about this lens..the reply? ” that lens sucks. A coke bottle would give you better images at f/0.95. It was mostly a bragging rights lens by Canon that was made especially for the bling-bling gold Rolex watch, silicon boobs, Lamborghini owners. My thing is bigger than your thing kind of thing……..” 

It is safe to say that this person had no clue as to what they were talking about. :) The lens is beautiful and sharp even wide open. In fact, I find it sharper wide open than the original Leica Noctilux F/1.

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My Original video on the Canon Dream Lens

I did a video over a year ago on this lens with my thoughts on it back then. If you missed it, take a look below:

Final Word on the Dream Lens

I will tell you what I told you over a year ago HERE in my original review…

If you lust after this lens, BUY ONE if you can find one in great shape. Prices have went up and will continue to go up. Mark my words. In two to three years this lens will be hovering around $5k for an M mount, mint, with cap and hood, 6 Bit coded, maybe more than that in 3-5 years. It offers just as much fun as the Noctilux 0.95 with more uniqueness for 1/3 the cost, 2/3 the size and 1/2 the weight. For me it even beats the old Noctilux f/1, which Leica created due to this very lens.

If you shoot a Sony A7 series camera it is so good on these bodies, a truly drool and lust worthy piece. If you shoot an M you can use live view for critical focus and on the MM it is a beauty. But do not expect perfection, not at all. This lens is not about being perfect. It has some vignetting, it can be soft looking if you mis focus and  the contrast can be slightly low if you do not tweak it. What makes this lens so sought after is the Bokeh, which is unlike any other lens ever made. You can really make some images that are very painterly with this guy.

At the current price of around $3200 for a mint M mount copy they will not be heading down or getting cheaper. If you like the look of the images here, in my original review, or on the Flickr group then this  is the only lens that will give it to you. Happy Hunting and if you own this lens, leave a comment letting us know how you like it, how you shoot it and what you shoot it on! Thanks everyone!

Steve

PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Sep 162014
 

New Voigtlander lenses for M mount and Micro 4/3!

Pre Order Links – $100 deposit at Cameraquest:

The new 35 1.7 in Black - and in Chrome

The 40 2.8

The 15 4.5 III

and the 10.5 0.95 for M 4/3

 

Photokina is the gift that just keeps on giving. Today Voigtlander announced the new 35 1.7 Ultron lens in VM mount (Leica). This is yet ANOTHER fast 35mm option for Leica M or Sony A7 users. HOW SWEET IT IS! The cool thing is that the Voigtlander lenses are just as well made as the Zeiss lenses and offer image quality that may not equal Zeiss or Leica but is still VERY nice. Take a look at the new 35 1.7 Ultron VM, which looks similar to the amazing 50 1.5 that I reviewed a while back.

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There is also a new version of the 15mm Heliar that I love so much, the new VM Heliar 15 II. No pic yet but will have one soon. Finally, another new Leica M mount lens from Voigtlander will be the 40mm 2.8 Heliar pancake lens, a slim and gorgeous retro design. So three new Leica mount lenses from Voigtlander! Woohoo!

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In addition, there is a new Voigtlander 10.5mm f/0.95 for Micro 4/3 which will give you a 20mm 0.95 equivalent (and yes this is a 0.95 lens and has 0.95 light gathering ability, period). This kind of puts a dent in the new SLR Magic 10mm T 2.1 by upping the ante to f/0.95.

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You can pre-order these lenses at my Voigtlander recommended dealers, CAMERAQUEST.COM. They should have them listed today. I will be reviewing these new VM lenses for sure! Not sure of pricing just yet, but Voigtlander is always reasonable.

You can also buy Voigtlander at B&H Photo HERE.

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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