Feb 072011
 

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The M9 Contest Top 15 Update…

Wow!! I have gone through all of the M9 contest entries as they came in and again over the past 24 hours. I have been looking for the strongest set of images, those that tell a story with BOTH of the photos. There were some that I thought were very powerful, some that were very personal, and quite a few that told the same story. (lots of you had the same ideas) It has been very rewarding to see so many amazing photographs. A true inspiration. As of today I have narrowed my choices down to a top 25 and now have to attempt to get that down to a top 15. In all honesty I found about 60 sets that I thought stood out from the 1300+ entries but there can only be two winners. One first place for the M9 and one second place for the V-Lux 2. The photos that have been submitted (and the top picks) have come from every corner of the world…the power of the internet is magical sometimes :)

So instead of waiting until the 15th I will be posting the top 15 THIS week. I will post 3 of them later today and then 3 a day for the rest of the week. By Friday, the top 15 will be up all on one single page! I had to figure out a way to make it exciting, so I thought that revealing three every day would be pretty fun and exciting for all who entered.

So later today look for the 1st posting that will feature three of the top 15. Keep in mind that the top 15 will not be in any order. In other words, the first three I post will not be my favorites but rather just three random choices out of my favorite 15. After the top 15 are all posted Heidi Klum and Rankin will look them over and choose the winners! Woo hoo!

Accessories for the GRDIII!

New reviews on the way!

More Ricoh! Just today Fed Ex delivered a box of accessories to me for the Ricoh GRD III. I received a great leather ever-ready case, a smaller soft case, the wide angle 21mm adapter and lens, a nice strap and both of the viewfinders that are available for this camera! I will be testing them out this week and writing up a post about them along with some photos of all of the accessories on the camera. Probably a video as well. I’ll also show some new shots with the 21mm attachment. I’m really enjoying the GRDIII as it seems like a very mature and well rounded compact that is capable of taking superb photos. Look for that this week!

Also, I have some new stuff on the way to review. The Panasonic wide angle 14mm lens for Micro 4/3 will be arriving to me Thursday and shortly after I should be getting the Panasonic GF2 and GH2 to review. I’m also hoping that I will be one of the first with the Fuji X100 and I believe I will be, so that will be coming next month.

My Leica 90 Summarit lens review is a little delayed, mostly because I have not had time to get out and shoot due to the contest! But, that is also a review that will be coming very soon!

Feb 042011
 

Hi Steve,

My brief profile…I’m a motorsport photo journalist in Indonesia, single mom, emerging artist on abstract art photography with experiences in documentary filmmaking, assisting director for creative advertising, managing Media Relations and PR, writing a published poetry book, mentoring in photo workshops, social media and my own Jagamine Project : http://jagamineproject.wordpress.com/

Photography is more than just a passion; it has been my main source of livelihood and is something that I have experienced on many different aspects, starting from hobby, professional journalistic to serious art. I am currently preparing my first solo exhibition in April on abstract photography as art.

My portfolio :

portraiture : http://poeticpicture.wordpress.com/

General/abstract : http://www.poeticpicture.com/

I’m submitting for Daily Inspiration Pic I hope you like them….

Best Regards

Marrysa Tunjung Sari (sasha)

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Feb 032011
 

Capturing Beauty in Asia with the Leica M9

By Neil Buchan Grant - See his Website

A little background

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

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

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

A new direction

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

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

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

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

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Angie M9, 50mm @1.4

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Adik M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Adik M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Adik M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Paradiska, M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Paradiska 50mm @ 1.4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Waiting for a bus, M9, 50mm @1.4

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

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

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

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Doing around 25 MPH M9, 50mm @1.4

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Batavia Square, Jakarta M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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

Feb 022011
 

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

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

Feb 022011
 

The Olympus E-PL2 Digital Camera Review/Overview

12 improvements over the E-PL1

By Steve Huff


So Olympus has just this week released the E-PL2 just a short 9 months after they released the E-PL1. Funny, 9 months. So my question is did the E-PL1 mate with the E-P2 and give birth to the E-PL2? Seems like it to me as the new camera looks like a combo of the E-P2 and E-PL1! The new E-PL2 by Olympus may not be an all new E-P series camera with new advancements, but let me just say that I like to call it an “improvement” to the E-PL1. The E-PL2 looks nicer and is more sleek than the box like E-Pl1. It also looks more like a camera and less like a toy. It feels solid in my hand much like the E-P2 and the new features it has over the E-Pl2 will not be noticed in the image quality department, but they will be noticed in other areas. First off, if you have not seen my E-PL1 review you can do so HERE. To see the official Olympus page on the E-Pl2 click HERE.

The new on/off button is recessed into the body

The Improvements over the E-PL1. All 12 of them…

This review will be short, sweet and to the point. No use in dragging out this one with 8,000 words when it is basically the same camera as the E-PL1 with some improvements. So what are the improvements over the E-PL1? There are a DOZEN of them!

  1. The E-Pl2 design has been changed to a sleeker and more streamlined design. Sort of looks like a fatter E-P2 with some curves.
  2. The E-Pl2 Feels better in the hand due to the rubberized (or is it plasticized?) grip.
  3. The E-Pl2 has a much nicer 3″ 460,000 dot LCD on the back. The E-PL1 had a 2.7 inch 230,000 dot LCD. In use the E-Pl2 rear LCD is so much better. The resolution is double of the E-P2 LCD as well.
  4. The E-Pl2 has a smaller and newly redesigned kit zoom lens. The 14-42 II is now silent in its AF for HD movie use. It does feel nicer and extended is smaller than the previous version. AF seems faster as well.
  5. ISO now goes up to 6400 which is higher than the E-PL1’s 3200. BUT ISO 6400 is not so hot on the E-PL2 in dark situations but is usable if there is some light. Also, base ISO went from ISO 100 to ISO 200.
  6. All new battery design and charger.
  7. All new Live Guide for stills and HD. This may be useful for newbies but those who are more advanced will not even use this one.
  8. New “eye detect” AF where the AF will automatically focus on the eyes. Hmmm. Interesting.
  9. New Art Filter called “Dramatic Tone” which works well in some situations and is horrific in others (portraits can be scary with this one)
  10. Finally, the E-Pl2 now has a dial on the back instead of the cheap felling buttons on the E-Pl1. I like this one though it may be a little quirky. I found it almost too easy to move.
  11. My favorite – the shutter now is capable of 1/4000s. The E-PL1 maxed out at 1/2000s which was not good for using fast glass in the full sun/daylight. I like shooting with shallow DOF, even in the day. Now I don’t need an ND filter.
  12. The E-Pl2 now accepts SDXC cards as well as the SDHC we all know and love.

So there you go! Twelve improvements over the E-PL1. Sounds impressive but in all reality the images you get from either camera will be the same. Image quality wise, when shooting with the kit lens, out of camera images are just about the same as I got from my old E-Pl1. I no longer have an E-PL1 but going from my 41 year old memory I really do not see much of a difference in out of camera images between the two. If you remember when I reviewed the E-PL1 I used the tagline “The Best JPEG Camera Ever”. JPEGS from the E-Pl2 are very very good right out of the camera.

All of the images you see in this short review were shot as JPEGS as none of my software will read the Olympus RAW files yet.

Before I go further, in case some of you reading this are not aware the Micro 4/3 camera system uses an imaging sensor that is much larger than a point and shoot camera but also much smaller than an APS-C or full frame size sensor. The M4/3 cameras will give us better file quality than a point and shoot like the Leica D-Lux 5 or the Ricoh GRD III but the high ISO performance will suffer when compared to an APS-C camera like the Leica X1, or Ricoh GRX with 28mm module. Also, all lenses that you mount to the Micro 4/3 mount will have a 2X crop. For example, the kit zoom at 14mm will act more like a 28mm lens. To get a 14mm view you would need a 7mm lens. Just one of the quirks of M4/3. Some like it, some hate it  and some do not care either way. Me, it bothered me at 1st but now that I have used these cameras for almost two years now I know their strengths (size & portability & IQ) and their weaknesses (more noise at high ISO, lower dynamic range). It is what it is and I am a big fan of these cameras as many of you know. I have seen results that are just fantastic come from these little boxes. Quality that rivaled larger DSLRs at times.

Still on of my favorite in camera filters of ANY digital camera made the grainy B&W mode is still here on the E-PL2. The next two shots were taken in this mode. 1st  ISO 1250, 2nd ISO 1600

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I know there are many of shooters out there who bought the E-PL1 or E-P2 and now just nine months later Olympus goes and spits out a baby and they name it the E-Pl2. Some of you are upset that Olympus keeps popping out these cameras like this as it makes those who spent their hard earned cash on an E-Pl1 feel kind of silly. You ask yourself “should I upgrade”? Well, if you recently bought an E-Pl1 there really is no need to upgrade to the E-PL2 unless you REALLY need or want one of the 12 improvements that were made to the camera. Out of the 12 there really is only ONE in my opinion that matters and that is the shutter speed improvement. The new design and LCD is very nice but it will not affect the quality of your photos. So if you bought an E-Pl1 no need to be upset as you still have a wonderful micro 4/3 camera that is just as capable of delivering the results.

The E-PL2 uses the same sensor, has the same 12.3 megapixel resolution, and uses the same Truepic V image processor. Is it a good camera? Hell yea it is!

“Happy Hour” – All shot with the E-PL2 and the cool little SLR Magic 26 1.4 Toy Lens. All at 1.4 – click any image for a larger and better version

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True, Ive been in a black & white mood lately… but here are some color shots..”Happy Hour in color” Ha ha..

The Features of the E-Pl2

IN-BODY IMAGE STABILIZATION

Say goodbye to blurry images. In both still and movie modes – the E-PL2 Image Stabilization excels. The E-PL2’s three-mode In-body Image Stabilization system compensates for up to three shutter speed steps in the still shooting modes with any of its interchangeable lenses: Mode 1 for general shooting, Mode 2 for creative high-speed horizontal capture, and Mode 3 for high-speed vertical capture. The camera’s Mechanical Image Stabilization automatically compensates for camera shake in low-light situations or when using a telephoto lens. In the Movie Modes the advanced Electronic Image Stabilization tracts the images both vertically and horizontally to achieve clear sharp movies, matching the performance of the in body IS.

BUILT-IN POP-UP FLASH

Illuminate low-light subjects, reduce red eye, and fill in dark areas. Set the built-in pop-up flash to auto or control the amount of light the flash emits.

12.3 MEGAPIXEL

The E-PL2’s powerful 12.3 megapixel Live-MOS sensor packs a powerful high-quality imaging punch for such a compact camera, allowing you to capture more detail than ever before. The Live MOS image sensor delivers excellent dynamic range, accurate color fidelity and fine image details in both highlight and shadow areas.

TRUEPIC V IMAGE PROCESSOR

In addition to more detail, the image sensor, combined with the next-generation TruePic V Image Processor, delivers excellent dynamic range, accurate color fidelity and reduced noise, all the way up to 3200 ISO.

DUST REDUCTION SYSTEM

A Dust Reduction System assures spot-free images. Every time you turn on the camera, the patented Supersonic Wave Filter silently vibrates, flinging and collecting dust so that it cannot interfere with the picture imaging at any time.

HD MOVIE WITH MANUAL CONTROL, ART FILTER MOVIE, AND NEW DIRECT MOVIE BUTTON

Shoot movies at 30 frames per second, with high-quality sound, in 720p with available manual control over aperture and shutter speed. This new level of control allows you to express your vision exactly how you want in your HD videos. A Direct HD Movie Button switches you from still to movie mode with the press of a button. You can also capture HD video (720p) using one of the six Art Filters for more creative shooting options.

ACCESSORY PORT

The E-PL2 includes a port (AP2) for new accessories including the MAL-1 accessory light, the PENPAL Bluetooth® accessory – which makes it easier than ever to share your images – as well as the VF-2 viewfinder, a detachable electronic viewfinder. The external accessory port also allows for connection with the new EMA-1 external microphone adapter for enhanced audio capture.

PENPAL

This Bluetooth accessory plugs into the camera’s accessory port to easily save albums, send pictures from your PEN to a smart phone or another PEN. This makes it easier than ever to share images to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. When the information is sent, it includes shooting location to make geo-tagging easier than ever before.

NEW EASY-TO USE-LIVE GUIDE CONTROL

Seeing the results before you shoot can change the way you take a picture. Want more vivid or muted color in your shot? Want warmer or cooler hues? Want a brighter or darker subject, or a sharper or softer background? Or maybe you want to capture the fast-moving action of your subject with a little artistic blur, or perhaps freeze the action? Simply set the camera to iAuto, press OK to engage Live Guide, then press the up and down arrows on the back of the E-PL2 to easily slide through numerous photographic effects. Make adjustments and watch the LCD as the effects are made live — before the image is captured! Live Guide also features a Tips section on how to compose a shot or shoot kids, pets, flowers and more.

22 SCENE-SELECT MODES

From portraits to sunset shots, the E-PL2 is equipped with 22 Scene-Select modes for effortless picture taking, including Fireworks, Sunset, Children, Macro and Panorama, to name a few. Capturing beautiful portraits is easy with the ePortrait Mode that enables you to smooth your subject’s complexion. There are even three scene modes that are specific to shooting with the new conversion lenses to optimize the performance of those lenses.

IAUTO WITH IENHANCE

iAuto automatically identifies the scene you’re shooting – portrait, landscape, night portrait, macro, or sport – and adjusts the settings to optimize results. iEnhance can be used in any mode, and automatically engages when using iAuto to enrich color in any subject, just as the human eye sees it.

MICRO FOUR THIRDS MOUNT

The Micro Four Thirds Mount on the E-PL2 provides many key benefits, including the effectiveness of a digitally designed image sensor, an ultra-compact design, and expandability and compatibility with all Micro Four Thirds Lenses and Four Thirds System Lens via the MMF-2 Adapter.

AUTOFOCUS LIVE VIEW WITH AUTOFOCUS TRACKING

Keep fast-moving and unpredictable subjects in focus. AF Live View displays subjects, in focus, on the LCD the instant the shutter is pressed half way. AF Tracking locks your subject into focus and adjusts focus and brightness whether you or your subject is moving.

MEDIA CARDS

The E-PL2 is capable of recording video to SDHC and SDXC media cards to accommodate large files. (SDHC Class 6 cards are recommended.) Videos, stills and high-fidelity audio can also be output via HDMI cable – direct to any HD television.

HIGH ISO TEST

The E-Pl2 should be giving us the same high ISO output as the E-Pl1 but now we have the option of ISO 6400. Is it useful? See for yourself. Here are the results AT ISO 3200 AND 6400. You must click on the photos to see the larger versions with the true 100% crop. This was taken in a dark room with the ONLY light coming from my IMac display. The whole  house was dark as it was midnight :)

ISO 3200 – click image for larger version and true 100% crop. The only light was coming from my Imac display. It seems to be a little better in the noise dept. than the same shot from my E-PL1 review.

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ISO 6400 – again, click image for larger view and 100% crop – same lighting

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and for giggles, here is a shot from my E-PL1 review of the same keyboard and the same lighting at ISO 3200

ISO 1600 is good and I would use it without hesitation. Here is a low light shot of my used and abused keyboard that gets a workout daily due to this site…ISO 1600, B&W, f/1.4 with the SLR Magic 26mm Toy Lens.

The new Art Filter “Dramatic Tone”

One thing the Olympus M4/3 cameras have that the Panasonics do not have is the Art Filters. Some say these are just silly gimmiks but to be honest, I use the B&W grainy filter ALL OF THE TIME! It’s a great art filter and there is no need to mess with processing and converting the images. They look fantastic right out of the camera with the grit, grime,and noise. It seems that every time Olympus releases a new Micro 4/3 camera they include a new art filter. This time they give us “Dramatic Tone” and it sort of resembles an HDR effect to some degree. I have tested it on everything and sometimes it seems to work and enhance the drama, and others it doesn’t. I wouldn’t recommend it for portraits unless you want the person you are photographing to looks grimy and grungy. Here are a few out of camera samples with the new “Dramatic Tone” art filter.

Shot with the “Dramatic Tone” Art Filter in full sun daylight – kit zoom at 14mm (28mm) You can set the camera to create a frame if you like. Pretty cool!

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What I would have liked to see in the E-Pl2

It is no secret I am a fan of the Micro 4/3 mount cameras. Hell, I love them all it seems. With the E-PL2 Olympus decided to upgrade the camera with specs and features that even surpass the E-P2, their m4/3 flagship. Higher res LCD, sharper JPEGS, sleek design, etc. This tells me that there is an E-P3 on the way and from what I hear it will be more of a “pro” Micro 4/3 camera. Yea, I think the E-P3 is the one to wait for if you are seriously into photography and dig the M4/3 bodies. For everyone else the E-Pl2 is a SUPERB camera to really get into and it is an improvement over the E-PL1 in many areas. BUT, Olympus could have made it even better. If I were redesigning the E-Pl1 I would have added a swivel LCD. I love swivel LCD’s and find I can get more out of the camera when it has one. Overhead shots, side shots, low level shots…all easier with a swivel LCD. Also, I would have created the E-PL2 with a built in EVF (maybe the E-P2 will have one) and made it a complete camera. WIth a swivel LCD and built in EVF this would have been the M4/3 camera to beat. Oh wait..isn’t there a Panasonic G2 that already does this? Yea, there is..and I reviewed it HERE. Only problem with the G2 is that it has a fatter more SLR like body style. I do know I really enjoyed the G2 but there is a difference in the color signature between the Panny and Oly cameras. Which you prefer is all up to personal preference. At the end of the day when I have shot both I think I prefer the Olympus color signature better but it’s a toss up really.

OK, now back to the E-Pl2 and what I would have added…

While we are at it..add STEREO mics for video to the E-PL2. I am not a fan of the mono mic in the E-Pl2 but I have to remember that this is their “starter” M4/3 camera. When I think of that I sit here and say “Damn, they did a great job with the E-Pl2″ and then I wonder if these upgrades I desire may make it to the rumored E-P3. I hope so.

sexy….

So overall the E-Pl2 is a great addition to the Olympus m4/3 line. It takes the same great quality photos as the E-Pl1 but does it with a bit more style and finesse. It feels much nicer in my hand than the E-Pl1 and loses much of its “boxy” feel. It’s sexy to look at and it comes in four colors. The white looks sweet, the red looks flashy, the silver is classic and the black is sexy and stealthy. I’ve seen the white and  black in person and personally enjoyed the white but ended up with a black one. Yep, I bought one to replace my E-P2 for now as I like the output and high ISO out of the E-Pl2 better than the E-P2.

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Shot with the basic 14-42 kit lens out of my car window while driving. 14mm.

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The 6X6 square format is still here on the E-PL2. Love it!

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6X6 in grainy B&W mode!

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more from the grainy B&W mode, my fave art filter

HD Video Capabilities

Basically, the video quality of the E-PL2 is exactly the same as that of the E-Pl1. The only difference is that the new lens is silent during AF so you will not get the lens noise in your video. This is a good thing. There is a video sample in my E-PL1 review. I do think that the Sony NEX-5 puts out much nicer video quality with its 1080P video than the E-PL2 720 P video. The sony seems richer in color to me for video with higher resolution. Still, I can’t complain about the E-PL2 video capabilities. Combined with the IN BODY image stabilization the E-PL2 puts out very good quality video.

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Noise Reduction – Turn it off!

I noticed that when I started shooting with the E-PL2 that the in camera noise reduction was working overtime! My ISO 800 and up shots were WAY too smooth and looked like paintings. I immediately went into the settings and turned OFF the in camera NR. After I did this everything was good so if you get the E-PL2 do know that it seems to ship with the NR jacked up. Why camera companies do this I have no idea as the overly smooth results look awful.

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The E-PL2 or the E-P2? Also, my final thoughts.

With the release of the E-PL2 Olympus has created yet another great M4/3 body. If I were in the market today for a M4/3 Olympus body I would 100% buy the E-PL2 over the E-P2. The ONLY thing missing is the stereo mics so if video is your #1 concern the E-P2 may be better (but a panasonic GH2 would be best) but in all other areas I prefer the E-PL2. Besides, for $65 or so you can buy the Olympus Stereo mic for the camera if you want better sounding video.

Another big BUT! I suspect an E-P3 is in the works and I cant wait to see what Olympus pulls out of their hats for that one. If it has a built in EVF and swivel screen I’m sold! As of this writing, the E-PL2 is the best Olympus PEN yet, IMO of course.

The E-P2 can be had these days with the Kit lens for $670 (AT BH PHOTO HERE) and the E-Pl2 with THE BETTER kit lens can be had for $599 (ALSO AT BH PHOTO). The cost difference is small and if you wanted an E-P2 it would only cost you $70 more but I feel the E-PL2 is a bit more polished than even the E-P2. Seems faster to AF, JPEG output is nicer, and it has the latest and greatest tech from Oly. For me, the E-PL2 is THE Olympus M4/3 to get at this time, and I was and still am a HUGE fan of the E-P2. It’s already a classic IMO. Amazon also sells the E-P2 kit! and usually has stock!

The days are finally here where we have multiple choices for a small camera that gives us superb quality. The M4/3 offerings, the Leica X1, the Ricoh GXR and even the little Sony NEX-5 all have their strengths and weaknesses. Any one of them is capable of delivering results that surpass most of our skills. With Micro 4/3 and even the Sony NEX I am waiting for more high quality prime lenses as I feel it’s the glass that really makes the quality shine. Voigtlander already made the new 25 f/0.95 lens for Micro 4/3 so it appears really good glass is on the way and I hope to review this lens soon. Another promising lens is the new Panasonic 14 2.5 for Micro 4/3. I have one on the way to review so look out for that soon as well.

I think I will always have one of these in my bag because even now they deliver consistent results and make for an awesome “take anywhere” or vacation camera. Stills, HD video, small size and good lenses…what else does the casual shooter need?

I said this review was going to be short and it ended up at 4300 words. Sorry about that! Its more of a medium length review but everything there is to say about this camera has been said in the E-PL1 review, and now here. The E-PL2 is basically a “Hot Rodded” E-PL1 and it really is a fantastic photographic tool. I already said I would choose this over the E-P2 if choosing today but what about cameras in the same price range like the Sony NEX-5? The NEX-5 has the capability to pump out a better quality file but the Sony is seriously lacking in the lens department. As of today they still only have the 16, and 18-55 Zoom. Both of which are mediocre.

Micro 4/3 is a more polished system with loads of lenses AND bodies. Also, the E-Pl2 is more of a photographers camera than the NEX-5. I love them all and especially enjoy the Sony for its high ISO capabilities. It would be a tough call but if you are deciding between the E-PL2 and the NEX-5 just ask yourself what you want and need in a small high quality camera. The Sony will give better video and better high ISO but the Olympus feels more like a real camera. Add on the SUPERB Olympus EVF and it’s really awesome. Tough call as I enjoy both systems for what they offer. Micro 4/3 is indeed maturing nicely. At this rate we may have our dream PEN camera within 2-3 years :) Until then I will be excited to see what new models surface and I will enjoy shooting with them. Man, I love my job!

I hope you have enjoyed this brief write up of the Olympus E-PL2. You can buy it at B&H Photo HERE. You can also find it at Amazon. I have yet to shoot this camera with the Panasonic 20 1.7 as I sold mine a while ago because I did not think I would be sticking with M4/3 due  to the NEX-5, Ricoh GXR and even the new Fuji X100 that is coming soon. But after shooting this one I think I will always keep a Micro 4/3 body on hand as they somehow always get me back with their charms and simplicity. The E-Pl2 gets a thumbs up from me, just as the E-PL1 and E-P2 did. It’s not perfect but for those who know the limitations of micro 4/3 will love this camera. Damn…now I have to order a new 20 1.7, and probably the new 14 2.5 as well :)

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

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

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

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

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Feb 012011
 

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

THE OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE

Ricoh announces development of expansion unit for the

GXR interchangeable unit camera system

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

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

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

Development model name: GXR Lens Mount Unit

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

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

・Release is planned for the autumn of 2011.

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

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

Jan 312011
 

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

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

Jan 312011
 

THE DEADLINE IS APPROACHING!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan 282011
 

“Pimp My Leica”

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

By Ashwin Rao

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

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

Bags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Above photo courtesy of Chiif

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

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

Photo courtesy of Jono Slack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hard Cases

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

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

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Half cases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, the new forums are NOW OPEN on this site so get involved if you like! Thanks so much for visiting my site!

Jan 262011
 

Hi Steve, Thought I’d submit some shots from a xmas holiday in South Africa.

All shots here are with Leica MP and Fuji Reala or Kodak Ektar from memory.

We spent 4 weeks travelling in a semi trailer converted into a

beautiful train carriage style interior adorned in timber, seats and even a bar!

Trying to know how much film to take can really be hard! in the end I carried

30 rolls, half colour half B&W mix of 35mm and 120.

I’ve learnt that next time I’ll just shoot colour and let someone else process

all the film. (I still have 10 rolls of ilford sitting months after in a cupboard waiting for developing!)

I missed having an SLR telephoto option, but the rangefinder was a dream,

especially when travelling with a toddler and all that requires!

We have plans on returning again soon and going on safari, by then I’ll have

purchased a much needed Leica R9 SLR so I can reach out a little further.

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Jan 262011
 

The Leica 50 Summarit Lens Real World Use Review

By Steve Huff


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

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

Let’s Get It Started!

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

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

Getting To The Point

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

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

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

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

Leica M9 and 50 Summarit

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Leica M8 and the 50 Summarit

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The Build and Feel


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

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

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Is It Sharp?

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

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

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

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

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

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Now the M9 at F4

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

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Now the lens at 2.5 on the Leica M8

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

M8 vs M9? Summarit VS ?

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

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

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

Next two shots: Leica M8 and 50 Summarit at 2.5

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Bottom Line Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan 252011
 

Fusing Henna and the Nude

By Tapas Maiti

(What is Henna? Click HERE.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I NEED YOUR HELP! YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THIS SITE TO KEEP IT GOING AND GROWING!

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

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

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

Jan 242011
 

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Hello Steve,

I have attached a few images for your consideration for your daily inspiration section.

The images where taken on a recent trip to Havana using a M9 with a 50 Summilux. This was my second trip to Havana and this time around my plan was to try and capture more portraits of the Cuban people. The ones I have included are a few of my favorites. The images were processed in Lightroom and the black and white conversions were done using Silver Efex.

You can find some others on my site:

http://jamesryce.viewbook.com/portfolio/cuba_ii

Thanks

Jim

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Jan 242011
 

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New lens reviews coming soon for Leica!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jan 242011
 

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Now I know many of you guys laugh at the obscene cost of the Titanium M9 but believe it or not, I have had about a dozen e-mails asking me where to find one available. I heard they were all accounted for but from what I have been told recently that meant they were all accounted for and sold to the Dealers. B&H Photo just listed the M9 titanium to their online shopping and it says “NEW ITEM – NO ARRIVAL DATE KNOWN”. This usually means it is coming but could be anytime and they have no idea when. So, if you are looking for a Titan M9 check out the B&H page daily…it may just pop up in stock one day soon! In case you missed it, the very 1st owner report of the Titan M9 was right here on this website! You may also find one via my good friend Ken Hansen (email is [email protected]) who also has two of those cool $12k+ Leica M9 sets with the ostrich leather and 35 Cron in chrome…in stock.

If you are looking for a normal M9 most dealers are out of stock again but Amazon has one GREY M9 in stock right now!

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