Jan 062011
 

JUPI-WHAT? Shooting Jupiter Lenses on the Leica M9

By Robert Chisholm

There is a certain allure and mystique to rangefinder photography. The obvious “whatsit”? The mystery of why any self respecting photographer would shoot a “manual everything” rangefinder in a modern world of do-it-all dSLRs. If that question is not enough of a head scratcher for you, another is why anyone who pays top dollar for a camera would then work with any lens other than the latest and greatest Leica glass? Well, I can not answer the first question, only to say that I am either fool or a genius (opinions vary) for choosing a $7k camera that won’t even focus for me! But shooting non-Leica glass? There are actually good reasons to choose and use old(er), non-Leica lenses.

Because Leica rangefinder cameras are manual focus and because the lens mount from the first screw mount lenses can be adapted to the modern “M” mount, lens choices are vast. This is fantastic for us; A photographer can research and choose lenses that draw in a fashion that is visually and emotionally appealing, sometimes with a “look” you just can’t get from contemporary glass. Leica glass also tends to be very expensive and often someone can get an entire lens outfit for the price of one new Leica lens.

The obvious drawback to legacy glass is that the designs, glass and lens coatings might be technically inferior to current, modern equivalents. While this could be very important to a landscape photographer, these “flaws” may be less significant or even desirable to a portrait or street artist.

How low can you go: How old? How inexpensive? How poorly built? And why would anyone with an expensive camera like the M9 even want to ask such silly questions?

Well, the answer to the last question is because you can, and it’s amusing! There is also a bit of romance to old lenses and a nostalgia that comes with using equipment made by someone from another era. I mean, I am using lenses built by a man or woman who has probably moved on from this lifetime, who lived in a country that only exists in the history books and at a time when things like computers weren’t imagined and penicillin was the only antibiotic. It was a time when my dad walked ten miles to school every morning in the snow barefoot and up hill both ways. That’s cool!

Jupiter lenses: What are they and what do we know?

While the story of Russian-made rangefinder cameras and lenses is waaaay beyond the scope of this article, one brand seems to stand out: Jupiter. The used market seems flush with jupiter lenses, especially the 50mm Jupiters, the Jupiter-3 (f1.5) and Jupiter-8 (f2).

Now, in rangefinder world, the two focal lengths people seem to love most are the 50 and 35. I know some people are true blue 35mm folks, but I’m a 50 guy. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good 35 as much as the next shooter, but if I could only have one lens, it would be a 50! Therefore, the 50mm Jupiters attracted me, and I wanted to find out more.

A little time spent googling the net and lurking in the forums revealed that the Jupiter 8 is reported to be a decent performer optically, at least on film, with the Jupiter 3 being more hit or miss. Both lenses suffer from poor overall mechanical builds, reflecting the Soviet era shoddy workmanship. Sounds really great so far!

Digging a little deeper revealed more concerning details: People note focus issues on the digital rangefinder (ie., the M8). Specifically, the lenses are known to back focus a few inches. The Jupiter 3 is a sonar design and, like the modern Zeiss, has it’s own inherent tendency to focus shift at middle apertures. This is a separate issue from the aforementioned back focusing, but does complicate the overall focus picture with this lens. I suspect that the back focusing issue of both lenses exists on film as well, but is magnified or at least seems to be magnified with the digital cameras given our ability to pixel peep (and to take and critique photos more readily).

Enter Brian Sweeney, a moderator on the rangefinder forum. Brian happens to be a Jupiter lens aficionado and is THE resident online Jupiter expert. He also is one heck of a nice guy! Brian informed me that the difference in build specs between the Russian rangefinder cameras and our beloved Leicas is the root cause of the back focusing issue, and that the lenses, when shimmed properly, can be adjusted to focus correctly! Bingo, big problem solved!

Now, purchasing a Jupiter 50mm lens is both easy and somewhat difficult. The Jupiter 8 sells for about 25 bucks and the Jup 3 is about $120-150 — both readily available on “the Bay.” Easy schmeasy. The hard part is the random chance of getting a dud versus a stud, optically speaking. Nobody likes to throw their money away, but just try returning a lens to some guy from Where-The-Heck-Is-It-Stan — Ain’t gonna happen. Cross your fingers!

OK, so you fancy yourself an eBay gambler and the focus issues are more of a mole hill than a mountain. The lure of the elusive 50mm lens is calling and you’ve just got to see if these Russians can make anything besides vodka and borscht. Mandler who?

Jupiter-8: the Small, Sexy, Retro 50

Right up front, I’m going to say the Jupiter 8 is one sexy lens on a black M9! While the older Jupiters are silver, then later ones are black, and the color matches the flat black paint on the M9 to a “T.” Color coupled with the rugged Black M9 vulcanite covering gives an almost military impression which I just love. The two look like they were made to go together. That either says very little for Leica, or a whole bunch for those Ruskies…

The minimum focus distance on the standard Jupiter 8 is 1 meter; While this distance was adequate on the M8 due to the crop factor, I often find myself needing or wanting a little bit closer focusing for my general 50mm shooting with the full frame M9. Fortunately, not only did Brian Sweeney shim my Jupiters for me, he even improved the Jupiter 8 to allow a minimum focusing distance of 0.8m. Sweeeeeeet!

The Jupiter 8 makes a great walk around lens, being small and unobtrusive. The focusing action is smooth and the simple focusing ring, while thin, provides adequate grip. The aperture ring is the weakest part of both Jupiters, as there are no detents or reassuring clicks and once you set an aperture, any little bump can and will turn the aperture ring. One has to get used to checking the aperture ring often. Perfectionists and/or the easily frustrated need not apply!

So, down to the brass tax: Are the images from the Jupiter 8 any good? In a word, and with caveats, yes. The images are indeed very, very good.

First, my perspective: We all have those Holy Grail lenses, the lenses that, for one reason or another, we just adore and against which all similar focal lengths are compared. For me, for general purpose 50’s, the Holy Grail if you will is the Zeiss 50 f2 Planar. I consider faster 50’s specialty lenses as they are usually larger and optically best at wide apertures. The summiluxes, noctiluxes, noktons and sonars all fall into this specialty category. I’m not saying you can’t shoot a noctilux all day and at f4, but a small 50 summicron might fit the bill better for all day shooting at f2-f8 apertures.

Being a 50mm enthusiast, I have had the pleasure of owning (my wife might say a problem with buying) quite a few 50mm lenses: the modern 50 summicron, Voigtlander 50 f2 heliar, Voigtlander 50 1.1 and 1.5 noktons, Canon 50 1.4 and 1.2 ltm’s, Konica Hexanon 50 f2, an older 50 collapsible summicron, the 2 Jupiters in this article, and the Zeiss planar. These days, while the planar spends most of the time on the camera, I like having a faster 50 when I want to shoot low light or portraits with especially shallow depth of field.

While some folks enjoys landscapes and others shoot street, I photograph mostly candids/people/fashion. I don’t need my lenses to be the absolute sharpest, but I do look at how a lens renders skin, colors, bokeh, and 3-d pop. Skin drawing is of top importance to me – a lens that is overly harsh on skin is generally a deal breaker. Many a 50 has come and gone simply based on skin rendering alone. The M9, in comparison to the M8, seems to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of a given lens, and what might have been a minor annoyance on the M8 often becomes a glaring flaw on the M9. Frustrating? Indeed! I have had to become much more choosy with my lens selections for the M9.

So I shoot 50s and I shoot people. For this article, as I know people get sick of seeing shots of someone’s family, I tried to include a few shots of non-people taken with the Jup 8 while on a recent trip to the zoo. You know, to mix it up. I should also mention that I post-process all my images to taste, preferring to use tools such as Lightroom, Exposure, and Silver Effex. None of the photos presented are raw and all have been edited to some artistic effect. Therefore, things like color cast and contrast have been mucked with.

The Jupiter 8 images are very pleasant to work with. I like the medium contrast files and the clarity. The bokeh is what I would label “energetic” while not being overly nervous or jittery. The bokeh is not, however, buttery smooth. The color rendition is somewhat cold or flat, but there is good 3-d pop. As I edit in film emulators, such as Exposure, flat files are often a nice starting point. Skin drawing is average, but thankfully not harsh. As to sharpness wide open, my copy of the lens is somewhat soft at f2, but does sharpen up by f4. The lens is of similar performance to the Voigltander 50mm heliar (no slouch) and the older collapsible 50mm summicron (which was of very low contrast, however). The lens does not come close to the 50mm planar, which I find to be the absolute best 50 f2 on the market optically. But the Jup 8 cost, with shipping and CLA charges factored in, all of $100 — It has real bang for the buck! Moreover, the Jup 8 is just plain fun to shoot, and I especially like the black and white photos it produces — They look very special and interesting to my eyes!

How about that Sonar?

Let’s move on to the main course, to the big boy, optically speaking: The Jupiter 3, f1.5 Sonar! Physically, this lens is actually quite small. It is just a bit bigger than the Jup 8, and much smaller than the f1.5 nokton and Canon 50 f1.4. My copy is an older chrome version, and the same overall comments about physical attributes and build apply. The aperture ring is a touch tighter on the Jup 3, so the aperture tends to stay set, which is nice. Minimum focus distance is 0.9m.

Optically, this lens is surprisingly, um, awesome. Awesome as in a knock-your-socks-off, photo making monster of a lens! The colors, the bokeh, the pop, the character of the lens — all fantastic. Now I can’t compare this lens to the famed noctilux or modern “wunderlens” summilux. But this lens optically out-performs the Voigtlander noktons as well as both of the fast Canons. I shoot it from wide open to f4 and have not noticed any issues with focus shift. Brian adjusted this lens to focus dead on when wide open and it certainly is — Focus on an eye and count the eyelashes!

Skin is drawn gently with this lens, while maintaining good in-focus sharpness. The out of focus areas have have a lovely calm glow that seems somehow old fashioned, as if this lens is still taking photos 50 years ago. Not busy all, which I appreciate.

The Jupiter 3, being a different design than the Jup 8, has a much different look and the lenses actually complement each other quite well.

My verdict on the Jupiter 50’s

What can ya say, other than fun, with incredible bang for the buck?

The Jupiter 8 makes for a cool, small walk-around lens and produces some quality files, especially black and whites (I have provided mostly color files here to show what the lens can do.).

The Jupiter 3 is magical when shooting wide open and continues to be excellent when stopped down. It would excel for anyone who enjoys shooting people and needs something faster than f2. Of the Jupiters, it is the clear lens to own, if you can get a good copy and then have it adjusted to focus properly. The Jupiter 3 is good enough to be one of my main lenses, and has replaced any interest I might have had in trying a Leica fast 50. However, I will be keeping and shooting both the Jup 3 and Jup 8 lenses. They are unique in the images they produce, and frankly, it is a blast to use these relic lenses on my modern M9!

I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please continue to support Steve’s site. If you want to see more of my photos, my flickr page is http://www.flickr.com/photos/feros-ferio/

All the best! — Rob Chisholm

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 facebook! 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 052011
 

NO MORE ENTRIES! THE DEADLINE HAS ARRIVED! WATCH FOR THE TOP 15 TO BE POSTED BY FEB 15th 2011!

THE LATEST UPDATE: NO MORE ENTRIES!

Wow, Almost 1500 shares of this page via facebook! Awesome!

UPDATE: PLEASE READ THE LIST OF RULES BELOW AND THE STEPS TO ENTER. I HAVE ALREADY HAD SEVERAL PEOPLE ENTER THAT DID NOT FOLLOW THE RULES SO THEIR ENTRY WAS NOT SUBMITTED TO THE CONTEST. THE IMAGES MUST BE SHOT BETWEEN 01/05/11 and 02/05/11. I AM NOT TAKING IMAGES THAT WERE SHOT BEFORE THIS DATE. TIME TO GET CREATIVE, Read  the rules and steps below!

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January 5th 2011 – THE GREAT LEICA M9 GIVE-AWAY CONTEST HAS BEGUN!

The time has come! The Leica M9 Give-Away has begun! Read on for the details…the rules…and how YOU can win this Leica M9 signed by both Seal and myself on the inside bottom plate. Spread the word to all of your photo friends and send them here so they can also enter this amazing contest! ONE OF YOU READING THIS NOW WILL WIN THIS LEICA M9!

I will be adding photos of the actual camera VERY soon…stay tuned for that.

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THANKS TO THE GENEROSITY OF Seal (~6)

The Black M9 that we are giving away was donated by ~6 (Seal) which was his previous personal M9. He just recently received his gorgeous Titanium M9 ( see his post HERE) so he kindly donated his black M9 to this site so we could give it away in this contest.  Not only that…since NO ONE has ever given away a $7000 Leica M9, the inside bottom plate will be signed by both of us to mark this special occasion!

What most of you already know is that the man who posts here as “~6″  is the recording artist and photographer Seal. If you did not know that, now you do. This contest/giveaway was his idea and when he approached  me about it I was VERY excited. I mean, what other website has given away something like a Leica M9? Seal is not only intensely passionate about music, but also photography and I am proud to call him on of my dearest friends. How cool is it that he has donated his personal BLACK M9 to give away here? IT’s AMAZINGLY INCREDIBLE!

Since he has been so generous with the M9 donation for the up coming contest I wanted to mention HIS new website.

Just recently Seal has launched a very cool photo website called picortwo.com and I urge you to go check it out and register to follow your favorite photographer. Basically you can follow any photographer on the site..Seal, his wife Heidi, or any of the other photographers on the site. Just by entering your e-mail address you will recieve a pic or two in your mailbox every day that they took during the day.

For example, if you are following Seal, every day you will get a pic or two in your email that he shot THAT DAY. It’s like you are following the daily life of the photographer you follow. So make sure you go check it out at picortwo.com. Browse the photographers and follow whoever you like. It’s REALLY cool and REALLY fun.

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What you have been waiting for! How you can enter and win this camera!

Anyone can enter and anyone can win. Well, anyone who is passionate about photography that is. We wanted to make sure that whoever wins it will cherish it and USE it for their photography. Hell, I would love to have it myself but I would rather give it away to a reader here who has that passion and love for photography. That is what this site is all about..the passion!

So here is how to enter, along with the rules:

It is a photo submission contest  but it is about telling a story with only 2 photos. This is called “sequential narrative photography” or creating a photo narrative. This can be challenging, fun, and also spark your creative juices. In case you need some pointers, Here is a description I found online of a photo narrative.

These photos can be of any subject but you must pic a topic for your story. Just make sure that the images form a narrative and tell a story. The only thing being judged here is the two photos and the topic/title.

Also, just for my information, along with the photos tell me something about yourself (just a short 2-3 sentences) and why a Leica M9 would help you in your photographic journey. That is it. This contest is NOT about what equipment you use to take the shots. As a matter of fact, you can use a cel phone to take the images and yes, a cel phone image may just win. Again, it is NOT about the equipment but more about the photos as a set.

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How the winners will be chosen..

At the deadline, all submissions will be looked over and I will pick the top 10. After that, the top 10 will be sent directly to the two final judges who will pick the winners.

Who are the two final judges? Seals wife, Heidi Klum and professional photographer Rankin will do the honor of choosing the first and second place winners. Yep, this contest is big time now and yes, there is a 2nd place price which is being supplied by Leica Camera themselves! Exciting huh?

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The Prizes:

The 1st place prize:

A black Leica M9 which is slightly used. This was Seal’s personal M9 and will be signed by the both of us on the inside bottom plate. This is a $7000 camera if buying new. NEW – If you “like” my facebook fan page for this site you will also be sent a Leica 50 Summitar lens!

The 2nd place prize:

The 2nd place prize will be a new in box Leica V-Lux 2 supplied by Leica Camera. $849 value. Pretty cool huh?

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THE FIVE STEPS TO WINNING THE LEICA M9

OK here is how you can officially enter this contest.

Step 1:

You must go over to picortwo.com and register and follow at least one photographer at the site. For example, you can follow Seal, Heidi or Rankin and you will get an e-mail with their pics when they submit a pic or two from their daily lives. This step is mandatory! If you are already registered then move to Step 2. If you have difficulty registering just go HERE, HERE or HERE (or all 3)  and enter your e-mail address and click FOLLOW.

Step 2:

You must also be registered at this site. When you register here this will allow you to not only enter all contests but will also allow you to post in the forums and take part in future activities here on the site. So after you register over at picortwo.com you must register here. To do so, click HERE. This step is also mandatory! If you are already registered here, move to Step 3.

Step 3:

Take your photos. To enter you must submit only 2 photos that form a story. We must be able to know what is going on by looking at the photos so because of this there will be no text explaining the photos, just your topic. For example your topic could be called “People in the Park”. Take 2 photos that form a narrative and number them in sequential order. Submit them to me at my e-mail [email protected] along with your name, address, e-mail address, age, topic title and tell me about you and your photographic passion (but keep it short and brief..no essays). Photos must be shot between now and the deadline date of February 5th 2011.

Step 4:

HELP SPREAD THE WORD!

I want as many photographers to know about this as possible. I want EVERYONE to be able to have a shot at this so help me spread the word by tweeting this, or by posting it to your facebook (you can use the handy buttons at the top of this page to do so), or mentioning it wherever you can – digg, forums, or wherever! Just linking back to this page will help tremendously and make this contest a success. If it is a success, more will come :) This is not a mandatory step of course, but will help me out a bit.

Step 5:

Get excited and Wait. I will be accepting submissions starting today, January 5th 2011. Submissions will end on February 5th 2011. The contest duration is 30 days. On February 15th I will post the top 10 winners on this site along with their photos. The top 10 will then go to Heidi Klum and Rankin for final selection. The winner will be announced on March 1st 2011 and the Leica M9 will be shipped out to the winner by March 15th 2011.

The 2nd place winner will win a Leica V-Lux 2 supplied by Leica Camera. Both cameras will be shipped by me via FedEx to the winners no later than March 15th 2011.

THE RULES – Follow them or be disqualified! READ READ READ! IMPORTANT!

  1. You must register or at least be following a photographer at picortwo.com and stevehuffphoto.com to be eligible to enter and win. Again, to be clear – you will only be eligible to win if your name and email address is registered at both websites. See steps 1 & 2 above to do this.
  2. When you submit your images make them no larger than 1300 pixels wide but also no smaller than 680 pixels wide.
  3. You must submit TWO images that form a narrative to enter and win.
  4. Include your name, address, email address, age, and topic title with the submission and a short note about you and your passion for photography.
  5. Photos can be taken with ANY camera – film, digital, or even a cel phone. This is not about the gear you are using to take the photos but more about the photos themselves.
  6. You can submit only ONE SET of images that tell a story – no text explaining what the story it, just a topic title. ONE ENTRY PER PERSON and ONE ENTRY PER HOUSEHOLD.
  7. Photos for this contest must be taken between the submission dates (1/05/11 – 02/05/11). In other words, they must be taken for this contest. No old photos allowed.
  8. EXIF Data must be present in the photos so I can verify dates. If you do not know what this means then you should be OK. Basically do not strip the EXIF data! If shooting film, just let me know the dates you shot the film.
  9. Contest begins on 1/05/11 and the deadline for your submission will be 2/05/11. Top 10 will be chosen by Steve Huff on 2/15/11 and they will be posted on the site for all to see. The final two winners will be chosen by Heidi Klum and Rankin and announced on March 1st 2011.
  10. The 1st prize is a black Leica M9 signed by Seal and Steve Huff. This was the personal M9 of Seal, so it is used but in great shape. The 2nd place prize will be a new Leica V-Lux 2.
  11. THIS IS A WORLDWIDE CONTEST! No matter where you live, you can enter!
  12. Steve Huff, Seal, and family members are not eligible to enter or win (Damn!)
  13. The decision of all judges is FINAL. No complaining, no whining and no bitching allowed in the comments. Keep it fun and let’s all have a good time.
  14. Finally, your submitted images may be shown on the site if you make the top 10 so you are giving rights for me to show your images here if you make it.

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SUBMIT YOUR ENTRIES HERE!

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TELL A STORY WITH PHOTOGRAPHS!

There are several ways to tell a story with sequential photos that reveal a moment, or a narrative. Get your creative juices flowing.

NARRATIVE: A good story has a beginning, middle, and an end. Lots of information can be told in as little as two photos but basically we want to be able to look at the photos and see the story. Get creative and be confident. ANYONE can win. Do not worry about what you use to shoot with as we are not looking for the best technical quality or highest resolution. If you have the ability to tell a great story with photographs then you deserve and have a great chance to win the M9.

SEQUENTIAL PHOTOS: Maybe you want to submit a set of photos that reveal a moment? For example, maybe you are shooting in the street and you see something funny that happens and can be caught within 2 frames. Does it reveal a moment or tell a story? If so, send them in. Have fun out there and get creative.

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AS ALWAYS, I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!

Again, this site has been able to stick around and grow over the past  two years thanks you YOU, the readers. Those who come here every day to see whats new, to see the passion of photography alive and well and to join in the discussions.

Thanks to you guys helping me out with buying your photo gear from my links to B&H Photo and Amazon and supporting my sponsors like Dale Photo and J-Tec. Let’s not forget Ken Hansen who has been a true friend AND a great Leica dealer. So without that support, this site would not be where it is today and this contest would not exist.

So here are those direct links again and if you ever need any photo related gear you can use the B&H Photo Link HERE (not able to bookmark the B&H link, must be clicked on from this site). If you like AMAZON, anything you buy there will help me out with pennies on the dollar (it adds up) and you can use that link HERE (and can bookmark the Amazon link!). You can also use the handy search boxes on the upper right side of any page.

Also, be sure to follow me on twitterfacebook and my RSS feed here. This all helps me out! Also, for more discussion you can visit my forums here on the site :)

ONE MORE THANKS TO ~6

Finally, thanks again to Seal. Be sure to visit SEAL.COM for his music and news, and the new picortwo.com to follow some pretty cool photographers. Without HIS support, this contest would not be happening! You can also follow him on twitter HERE and facebook HERE.

Some pics of the grand prize!

Jan 042011
 

The Timbuk 2 Bag Give-Away Top 10 – Voting Begins Now!

Sorry I am a few days late with putting up this top 10 for the Timbuk 2 Bag Give-Away but here they are! Thanks to ALL for your submissions, they were great and lifted my spirits this holiday season! Browse the holiday/winter photos below and vote for your favorite in the poll under the photos. Only one vote will count per person. The photo/photographer with the most votes by January 15th 2011 will win the bag! The bag will be shipped to the winner no later than Jan 25th 2011. The contest details and theme can be read about HERE but it was all about the holidays and winter! Enjoy! BTW, this bag was donated by thegearcaster.com.

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PHOTO #1 – Submitted by Ahmed Habis

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PHOTO #2 – Submitted by Aad Berkhout

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PHOTO #3 – Submitted by Dave Ng

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PHOTO #4 – Submitted  by Ernie Gambaz

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PHOTO #5 – Submitted by Felix Esser

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PHOTO #6 – Submitted by Greg Vassie

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PHOTO #7 – Submitted by John Gellings

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PHOTO #8 – Submitted by Rick Jacobo

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PHOTO #9 – Submitted by Vladimir Jancek

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PHOTO #10 – Submitted by Wim Jansen

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VOTE NOW FOR YOUR FAVORITE WINTER/HOLIDAY PHOTO!

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Jan 042011
 

Just a quick note to let you all know the Leica M9 contest details will be posted tomorrow morning bright and early. The contest will start tomorrow and not only that, there are a couple of cool surprises that will be announced as well (Like a 2nd place prize supplied by Leica, and the final two judges). Be prepared to get your creative juices flowing as anyone with a passion for photography can win this camera! In case you missed it I am giving away a Leica M9 here on this site. Check back tomorrow bright and early for full details and to enter!

Jan 032011
 

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From Steve: Starting off this Monday morning with a cool little guest post by Mikael Tornwall. Coming this week…The M9 Contest Details, Pentax K5 review, some film stuff, and a look at the Panasonic LX-5. Enjoy!

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Why a used M7 is more expensive than a new M9

The true cost of film by Mikael Tornwall

You have probably all heard the argument that you can buy an awful lot of film for the price difference between a new Leica M9 and a used M7. After all, the M9 is 7000 dollar, while you can get a used M7 in good condition for little more than two grand.

Besides, it’s fun to shoot film, so what is there to argue about? Well, it turns out that the M7 will probably cost you more to own than the digital M9.

Don’t get me wrong, I´m a big film enthusiast and I regularly shoot with both my antique M4-2 and M3 and my Hasselblad 201f. I love the results, but I can do without the waiting, and I can definitely do without the cost for processing and scanning.

Photography is my first and foremost my passion, even if I do take pictures from time to time for the newspaper that pays my salary. My profession is a business journalist, and as such it’s my job to calculate the true cost of things. So when I decided to get a new Leica, naturally I sat down with an Excel-sheet on my PC and figured out how much a M7 would really cost to own, including film, developing and scanning.

Top my surprise I found out that a 2500 dollar film M-camera quickly becomes more expensive than a used M8 or even a new M9.

If you are a casual photographer that maybe shoots one roll per week, the figures would suggest that you get an M7 over an M9. But even at that low rate, the M8 is less expensive to own.

I come back to all the details later in this post. For now you just have to accept these figures:

Camera Yearly cost

Used M7 $ 880

Used M8.2 $ 650

New M9 $ 1350

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Basically the cost for the M8 and M9 is only how much it loses in value every year + interest for the money it costs to buy. (Never mind if you have the money in your wallet, capital is still a cost. If you did not buy the camera, you would have a few grand to invest at let’s say 5 percent capital gain. Not taking that into account feels better, but it’s still fooling yourself!)

For the M7 the capital cost is a total of 275 dollar, while film will cost you 605 per year. I have calculated a total cost of 12 dollar per film, including processing and scanning.

Now let’s see what happens if you are a bit more ambitious and process and scan your own film. You can probably get the film cost down to about 6 or 7 dollar. Bear in mind that you will have to buy a pretty good scanner to really get full use of your expensive Leica lenses. That’s going to cost you a dollar or two per roll.

Camera Yearly cost

Used M7 $ 577

Used M8.2 $ 650

New M9 $ 1350

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Finally, the M7 is the least expensive alternative. But honestly, if you spend 2500 on a used camera and maybe as much money on lenses, you will probably shoot more than one roll per week.

So let’s try doubling that to two rolls per week, and then test one roll per day. The latter is probably more that most enthusiasts will shoot, but a low figure for a professional.

2 rolls per week (pay for scan and processing)

Camera Yearly cost

Used M7 $ 1485

Used M8.2 $ 650

New M9 $ 1350

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One roll per day/20 rolls per month

Camera Yearly cost

Used M7 $ 3155

Used M8.2 $ 650

New M9 $ 1350

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Wow, 3155 dollar per year to operate that M7, if you shoot one roll per weekday as a professional! That’s almost three times as expensive as owning the new m9.

Now, you might ask how come the M9 only costs 1350 per year, when the price tag is 7000. Here is how I have calculated.

For all three cameras I have assumed a price that you will eventually sell them for. Old film Leicas lasts forever, so I have assumed that you will keep it for 10 years and then sell it for 1000 dollar. (That is more or less what you pay for a M6 today.) The M8.2 and M9 you keep for three years. I assumed you get the M8.2 for 3000 and that you can sell it for 1500 in three years. That´s a loss of 500 per year. The M9 is new, so that’s going to lose more in value. I have assumed that it will lose as much as the M8.2 have so far, or about 3000 in three years. That’s a cost of 1000 per year. To that you have to add interest of 5 percent of whatever you buy it for.

You can argue that the film cost can be 10 instead of 12 dollar, even if you don’t process yourself. Or you can go for an even cheaper camera, lets say a M6 TTL for 1500. And yes, that will change the figures, but not dramatically. Even now the M8.2 comes out as the cheapest alternative, if you shoot 2 rolls per week.

Camera Yearly cost

Used M6 TTL $ 1133

Used M8.2 $ 650

New M9 $ 1350

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Bottom line, the M7 or the M6 might be absolutely right for you. Film after all still has a unique look that I have not been able to fully emulate with my digital cameras. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that you will save any money by getting that M7.

Myself? I had an M8.2, which still might be the second best digital camera in the world. But this little exercise made me even more convinced that upgrading to the M9 was the right choice.

BTW, here is a quick comparison shot between an M7 and M9 by Steve from last year. Fun!

Mikael

Jan 022011
 

Hey Steve!

First of all I want to thank you for the chance you give to all people outside there with your Daily Inspirations.

I’d like to show my pictures in your website so I’ve attached you some of them. The number one is a real boxer, he is a friend of mine and I shooted him before his last fight. The second one is in my hometown (Oviedo – Spain) and he’s probably the youngest street artist I’ve ever met. And the third picture is a drawer in Midtown Manhattan, I lived in NYC for a while and I did some street photography. I use to work with a tiny Yashica T3 and Kodak Tri-x, dveloping w/ D76 at home and then scanning them with an Epson v700 but for the first picture I used a Nikon FE2 with a 50mm f1.8. I keep shoooting film because I think it gives me better results.

You also can see my portfolio: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fonsecades/

I hope you enjoy my pictures.

Thanks so much.

Warm regards.

Alfonso Secades.

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Dec 312010
 

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GOODBYE 2010, HELLO 2011!

HAPPY NEW YEAR to ALL who come here, lurk here, and contribute here! I love all of you and truly wish you a HAPPY 2011. May the new year bring  joy, happiness, new friends, new experiences, and new motivations. For me, I am as motivated as I have ever been thanks to a mixture of friends, family, the thrill of things to come and the fact that this blog has really taken off in the past couple of months. Traffic here has went up and it appears all who come here are having a blast. I am thrilled with the community that has been building here and I have a few tricks up my sleeve for 2011 as well.

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This site is growing FAST and I THANK ALL OF YOU from the bottom of my heart!

Check out these stats for the past 12 months…

In 2010 stevehuffphoto.com has had 6,085,640 page views and now is averaging 65,000 unique visitors per month with over 30,000 page views each and every day and December was a record month with over 702,000 page views. There has been 663 posts since this new version of the site started in November 2009 (and  you can see them all listed out HERE) with 14,793 comments left. I’m not gloating, I’m just excited :)

This site is growing! November 2009 had 47k page views. December of 2010 had over 700,000. Hoping to make it 1 million per month by March 2011. THANK YOU ALL!

So again, I thank ALL of you who come here and enjoy reading the posts by not only me, but the multiple talented readers who have submitted their own stories and articles. My dream for this site is just now starting to become a reality. I wanted a community that could come here and be civil, kind, and friendly. We now have that here. I have not even had to moderate ONE forum post, not a one!

I wanted this site to also be a place where we can all come and learn. I wanted us to all learn from each other. I can learn from you guys just as much as you can learn from me as I am above no one. So with the guest articles and commentary here it has been amazing and not only have all of the readers learned a ton, so have I.

I will always keep this site unique, personal, and true to what it started out as. Just a guy who has a passion for photography, gear and life! I will always let the readers have a voice as well as I feel this is important.

As many of you know my personal life was a bit rough in 2010 due to a divorce and at one point in July of 2010 this sites existence was threatened but again, thanks to you guys it continued on. So again..THANK YOU! (cant say it enough).

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Things to come in 2011

I can’t spill all the beans but as I said, I have plenty up my sleeve for 2011. More great real world reviews of the coolest gear, more great daily inspirations, more awesome guest articles and more contests that will get us all involved. Maybe even a collaboration or two :) I will also be planning some cool meet ups in 2011 because the NYC meetup was a great success and I promise the next will be even bigger and better.

But ultimately for me it’s all about the passion. I think those who come here have the same passion that I do for photography. We may not all be pros, we may not all be amazing photographers, but does any of that matter? NO! What does matter is that we enjoy shooting…that we have a true love to create memories and if we get enjoyment and fulfillment from it then THAT is great for the soul. We only have one go round in this life so we MUST enjoy it :) ANYONE who enjoys shooting, even if it is taking photos of their dogs, cats, birds or kids this site will always welcome you without having the stuffy “pro” attitude.

So I welcome the new year with great happiness. Can’t wait for more cameras, more lenses, more stories, more lessons and yes, even more controversy :) If anyone is interested in submitting articles, stories or ANYTHING photo related that would be interesting to post here then email me and I’ll give you the details :)

Of course I can not forget the Leica M9 Giveaway contest which is coming in January 2011.

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Special 2010 Thanks…

I want to give special thanks to a few special friends who helped me out in 2010…

SEAL (~6) – Thanks brother…you have been an amazing friend this year. The highlights have been spoken about here of course from taking me on tour, letting me shoot with your Noctilux, and donating your own M9 for the upcoming contest. You have been a true friend and were one of the few there when I was down and out. Here is to more experiences in 2011! Of course you must check out picortwo.com and while there, register!

Ken Hansen – My favorite Leica dealer bar non. Ken has helped me from day one when I started the old site and to this day still helps me. Sure, I help him wiyth my recommendations but I do not recommend him for $$, I do so because he is a great guy, an amazing dealer and in todays world of customer service nightmares it really doesn’t get much better than Ken. He knows what he did to help me this year, so I THANK YOU KEN! His email is [email protected] if you ever need any gear, new or used.

Ashwin Rao – What a guy. Ashwin has submitted so many guest articles in 2010 and I know he is a busy guy, so thanks Ashwin! Hope to work with you more in 2011! Ashwin’s blog is here.

Riccis Valladares – I’d like to thank Riccis for helping me out at my 1st meet-up in NYC. He was the guest speaker and gave a killer presentation on shooting Leica while he shared some amazing photos. Hopefully we can work together again in 2011! Riccis site is here.

There are others but the ones above are those who influenced me, motivated me and helped me out in 2010 with the site.

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Dec 312010
 

 

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The SLR Magic TOY LENS for Micro 4/3 Cameras – Fun, Fun, Fun!

By Steve Huff

Just when I thought I was having a ton of fun with the SLR Magic 35 1.7 lens on the Sony NEX-5 I get a UPS delivery from SLR Magic with yet ANOTHER fun lens inside. This time it is a 26mm 1.4 TOY LENS for Micro 4/3 mount (which comes out to be a 52MM lens on Micro 4/3). Yep, this is a new SLR Magic lens and it is LOADS of fun, works great in low light, and is EASY to manual focus. I shot quite a few images last night using an Olympus E-PL1 with the lens and most were at ISO 1600 in low light. Was quite happy with the results considering this is marketed as a “Toy Lens”.

As you can see from the photos, you do get that Toy Lens look but it’s pretty unique, strangely swirly, and gives very shallow depth of field. If you are after sharpness you will not get it with this lens (well, it CAN be sharp at the focus point) but what you will get is a funky character and TINY size. On the E-PL1 this guy is TINY! I had a blast shooting with it and is yet another SLR Magic lens I am keeping for my collection! I also feel that using this one the E-Pl1 (which can be found pretty cheap these days) gives some of the best results due to the weak AA filter on this camera vs the E-P2 and others. I think I will start carrying this combo with me everywhere because no matter what I shoot with it I get unique results. Love it!

You can buy the SLR Magic Lens direct on Ebay. My experience with them has been AWESOME. VERY speedy and VERY professional. How much does this lens go for? A whopping $119.95! NOT bad at all for a lens with this much fun factor. I can recommend this lens to ant M4/3 user who wants their images to get a funky, creative kick in the pants. :) The lens comes with a lens cap and several color “bands” so you can customize the look of your lens. Pretty cool, and well, toy like! I may like this one better than the 35 1.7 offering that they sell for the NEX and M4/3 cameras.

Of course, SLR Magic also sells other items and you can see all of their goodies HERE. To go direct to the TOY LENS page for M4/3, just click here!

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ALL images below were shot wide open with the lens at f/1.4. This creates VERY shallow depth of field and a minimal area in the center that is sharp. SLR Magic says the more you stop the lens down, the sweet spot gets sharper and larger. I shot all of these in an Applebees during happy hour :) No one had a problem with me shooting and most hammed it up for the camera. This combo is very low key and that is a good thing when it comes to candid photography.

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With this lens it is now possible to get some crazy effects from your M4/3 camera. Seeing that it is a wide aperture lens at 1.4 AND a 26mm lens (which equals a 52mm on M4/3) it makes the perfect focal length for these little cameras. The effect is *almost* like an original F1 Noctilux but WAY more out there, not as sharp, and way more swirly :)

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Here are two images that show what you can expect at f/1.4 and then f4. At F1.4 the bokeh is pretty insane but again, it can be fun with limited use. Even at f/4 the depth of field is pretty shallow but notice how the lens sharpens up in the middle.

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For $119 you just cant go wrong! This Toy Lens is fun and I am happy to see lenses like this come out that are so affordable and a blast to use.

Here are a few more silly shots I quickly snapped in the E-PL1 Grainy B&W Mode..Enjoy!

 

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 facebook! 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!

Dec 302010
 

Good friend and fellow Leica user Thorsten Overgaard is in NYC right now preparing for his Seminar that is coming up Jan 7-9. Thorsten’s seminars are fantastic and all of those whom I talked to who attended one came away very happy. He has dates for NYC which as I stated is Jan 7-9 and he has upcoming seminars in Hong Kong and Tokyo. He has 2-3 spots left for NYC so check out the details HERE at his site. If you sign up be sure to tell him I SENT YOU!

He also still has his Extension Course that you can do from your own home and computer. Very cool. You can check that out HERE.

Here are a few shots he sent me last week, all taken in NYC during the holiday season. Wish I was there!

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Dec 302010
 
CL_04 (from TungChao.net - for credit on photo)

From Steve: Here is an open letter to Leica written by Ashwin Rao. Funny he should submit this as I was writing my own “open letter” to Leica about the same thing! A Digital CL is something that I think would sell extremely well for Leica and possibly propel them even more into the profit zone. Something for them to think about…

Thanks Ashwin for yet another cool post!

An Open Letter to Leica: How about a Digital CL!

By Ashwin Rao – His blog is HERE

Dear Leica and fellow Leica fanatics,

I recently got to thinking about future pursuits and goals of the company, simply as a mental exercise, and what emerged is the letter, which I present to you below. Granted, I am only a Leica enthusiast at best, but I am someone who is really passionate about rangefinder photography. I want Leica to succeed as a company as an idea, because I am so enamored by their cameras, their heritage, and the excitement that I find when I handle and shoot with these wonderful cameras. I have no insight into the fiscal plans or roadmap that Leica has certainly conceived as part of its business plan, but I can only imagine that the M system remains paramount as a model of success in Leica’s mindset. The Leica S2, their other principal system camera, is for studio professionals looking to expand their creativity with an SLR-styled medium format camera. At more than $20,000, it’s not for the rest of us. Further, Leica has repetitively said that their R camera line is finished, so I don’t want to beat a dead horse here (though for the sake of all R-shooters out there, I hope that a digital R camera is eventually released, as we really do need a high quality manual focus SLR camera, and Canon/Nikon/Sony will never deliver such a device). Regardless, as time has passed, and as my passion for rangefinder photography has grown, I have become increasingly invested in the online and local Seattle Leica communities, and there are several themes that have come out of ongoing discussions with friends, fellow forum members, and Leica enthusiasts Many of these thoughts have centered on Leica’s failure to provide a reasonable entry camera for their M system, essentially a Digital Leica CL. What follows is MY rationale as to why Leica should make this camera or some version of it. SO LEICA, I HOPE THAT YOU ARE LISTENING.

As my use of the Leica M8 and M9, increased, my cameras gained the attention of an increasing number of photographers with whom I shot. Most of these photographers proudly hauled around large SLR kits from Canon, Nikon, or Sony. A few were micro 4/3 shooters. None were rangefinder enthusiasts. A few years back, people simply would simply remark, “Gosh, that’s a cool old camera that you are using.” Eventually, some of my friends began to notice that these were not analog cameras that I used, but interesting digital cameras, fully capable and a wide range of photographic endeavors. More time passed, and these friends began to remark at the quality of the images that I was posting. “Whoa, that M8/9 is really quite a camera, and those lenses: AMAZING!” Even more time would pass, and their wistfully state, “Gosh, I wish I could buy one of those rangefinder cameras….”

Once the Leica M9 was introduced, suddenly everyone knew about Leica again. The Leica M9 was the digital rangefinder of which everyone had dreamed, with a full frame 18 megapixel CCD sensor, a lovely build quality, and far less quirks than its predecessor. In the past year, the M9 has seen Leica camera reborn. Leica is once again “in vogue.” Increasing numbers of photographers lust after the camera, wishing that there was a way to get it. Leica does not lurk in the shadows of its SLR cousins any more, and people know that these cameras exist and are thriving. I sum this up by stating that Leica is once again part of “the collective conscious”, at least in Westernized countries.

As most of you know, the past year has seen tremendous success for the Leica M9. The camera has been sold out at nearly all major vendors and has been very difficult to obtain in any shape or form for nearly a year. It’s been only been in the past 3-4 months that some are starting to find their way to the used market, and new cameras are now starting to show up in the inventories of major retailers. Leica M9’s continue to sell used, for nearly $6000 or more, which prices out many photographers who simply cannot invest those types of funds in camera equipment. Thus, many of my fellow photographers find themselves out in the cold when it comes to Leica. They would love to try out the system, adopt the rangefinder way as their own, but the cost of entry is too much…and yet, there was light at the end of the tunnel, and unexpectedly, that light came in the shape of the Leica M8, the somewhat flawed predecessor to the M9.

What essentially has happened in the past year is that the market was flooded with used Leica M8’s. All of the people who had once owned M8’s suddenly jumped ship and jumped onto the Leica M9 bandwagon. Well, what about all of those M8’s? In my experience as a forum member and a member of the active Seattle rangefinder community, I observed that photographers, whom had previously only considered SLR’s or other cameras, were buying Leica M8’s. Case in point: one of my orthopedic surgery colleagues recently bought 2 M8’s, one for his partner and one for himself. He found that the price of the Leica M8, approximately $2,300, was far more palatable than the price of the Leica M9. He was willing to live with some of the camera’s flaws, including it’s IR sensitivity, occasional glitchiness, just as all of us rangefinder guys from years past learned to love and hate the M8 a the same time. The difference, though, was that my friend, and many others like him, was willing to try out this system at a lower price point…. And so, the Leica M8 has become the new entry drug for many individuals new to the game.

So what’s the problem, then? Well, the biggest problem that I see is: TIME. The Leica M8 was introduced in 2006, nearly 4.5 years ago now, and the cameras are all out of warranty, getting older, and likely getting glitchier. Over time, Leica M8’s will start to fall into disrepair (these are not the legendary Leica M3’s which will live on for many of our lifetimes; the M8 is a digital creation, and electronics fail). Eventually, Leica M9’s will drop in price, but only after a Leica M9.2 and M10 is released, probably 1-3 years down the road. And even so, M9’s may not drop in price as do M8’s, given the interval improvements of the camera. I, for example, see no reason to upgrade, unless there are major sensor improvements for the next digital M. The M9 is every bit as much a camera as I could desire. Whereas Leica M8 prices have equilibrated to around $2,000, I suspect that Leica M9 prices will eventually land but at a more costly equilibrium point….

So where there’s a problem, there’s always an opportunity. Leica, this is where I hope that you are listening. Given that Leica has re-claimed its place in the minds of photographers, there’s a great opportunity to re-popularize the rangefinder in the photographic world. Many photographers are looking, asking, and hoping to join the Leica fray, but are unwilling to do so for a cost of $7000 (plus the cost of lenses) or for the cost of a 4 year old Leica M8 that costs $2K and is only getting older. Leica: YOU SHOULD MAKE A DIGITAL CL.


What the heck is the CL, you may ask? (see a short post on it here) Well, back in the 70’s, Leica manufactured the CL in conjunction with Minolta, meant to introduce the masses to rangefinder photography. The CL was a smaller rangefinder, marketed along with a 28 mm, 40 mm, and 90 mm lens set. By all reports that I read, it was quite popular, and Leica actually killed it after 3 years as it was cannibalizing the sales of its M line. Well, times are different now, and here’s why:

Whereas in the 70’s, images were recorded on 35 mm film stock, it basically didn’t matter what body you had to shoot with. As long as you had a nice lens, you could get the same image. Well, today, we live in the digital world. Images are now recorded on digital sensors and stored on digital media. Full frame sensors are far more expensive to manufacture than crop sensors, a concept that Canon, Nikon, and Sony have embraced, as they manufacture cameras of various costs and builds, housing both types of sensors. Leica has yet to embrace this concept. Sure, the Leica X1 houses a 1.5x crop Sony sensor, but it is not an interchangeable lens camera. It is a different beast all together. Leica’s only digital option is the full frame $7,000 M9.

SO here’s my solution, Leica: Build a digital Leica CL or re-introduce the M8 (say M8.3?) with a cropped sensor. Like Canon and Nikon, these entry-level cameras can be an area where you test out new technologies. Why not introduce a digital CL, with a 1.5 crop Sony CMOS sensor, that makes use of live view options? Why not consider a digital approach to hybrid viewfinders than incorporates rangefinder focusing? Or a video option ? I know, I personally think live view, video, and the like are silly, but using a digital CL, with a cheaper sensor and less exotic build, will provide you with an area to test new technology. Further, and far more importantly, it will provide you, Leica, with a brand new market of people eager to try out rangefinders.

Imagine this: A digital CL, priced at $2,500 or so (not so much more than a mid range SLR), yet more expensive than the fixed lens X1, and more affordable than the M9? Here, you wouldn’t be cannibalizing sales of the M9, as most rangefinder purists, the people to whom you’ve already sold your M9’s and had a record-breaking year as a result, would only buy full frame cameras. A digital CL would provide a much cheaper entry point for people looking to try out rangefinders. It would give people a new camera to try, bundled with a reassuring Leica warranty, and would allow them to be introduced to your wonderful Leica lenses. Sure, you can’t quite make enough lenses these days, but Zeiss and Voigtlander are more than willing to help ;).

The digital CL represents a market that’s not yet been tapped, but soon might be. You might say that the number of people willing to consider a manual-focus camera is limited, and that many photographers may prefer the option of buying an m4/3 or NEX camera at a lower price point. However, neither of these cameras are rangefinders, with their unique way of seeing the world. What I can tell you, with a certain amount of frankness, is that many people who are buying NEX and m4/3 cameras, are doing so to use Leica lenses, have a backup body for their M9, or wishing they were throwing those lenses on a rangefinder instead of trying to focus manually using an LCD screen. That process is very different than focusing with a rangefinder and experiencing the joy of the rangefinder experiences.

One more lesson, for you Leica, comes from the Land of Apple Computer. Apple/Macintosh has intelligently spread out their product announcements in a way that some item of theirs is always being marketed as the latest and greatest thing. For example, every summer, there’s a new iPhone. Every other fall, there is a refresh of their MacBook line. Every summer or so (late summer), there’s a refresh to their iMac line. Now, in the spring, there’s the inevitable iPad refresh. Leica, you have plans, I suspect to refresh the M digital camera after about 2 years. For example, the M8 got a refresh after 2+ years with the M8.2. I won’t fault you for creating a similarly appointed M9.2 in 1-2 years and then an M10 1-2 years after. Well, what about the gap years, when sales of the M9 slow down? This is where your digital CL could come in. It could serve as a platform for innovation and a way to keep Leica’s name in the collective conscience. Sales of your cameras would shift, rather than drop, if you spaced out product announcements appropriately. A full frame top Level M10/11/12 every 3-4 years, a new X1 or something similar every 2 years, and a digital CL on an alternative 2 year cycle….thus, a new product announcement every 1-2 years, multiple entry points for photographers looking to try out rangefinders, all while exploiting a market that is not currently tapped. No one else is making digital rangefinders, and the interest is higher than ever. Further, you wouldn’t be creating a camera with a new mount. The Digital CL would use the same mount as all prior M cameras. To fish were I started this paragraph, Steve Jobs even gave props to Leica when describing the new iPhone as “Leica” like! How about taking Steve Jobs idea.

Photography is popular more so now than ever! Leica, here’s your chance to do the right thing, both for us photographers, and for your business model. You can grow your persona within photography and establish yourself as a leader in digital imaging. You can help people to discover a new love of photography, just as the M8 did to me 4 years ago. Leica, provide us with a digital CL. Heck provide us with a M8.3, with a 1.3 crop sensor without UV/IR issues, which is new and priced for the masses (i.e. no more than $2,500), and you’ll have a winner on all accounts. Just build a new factory or 2, automate production of this camera (it doesn’t all need to be hand built), and people will be there to support you. I’ll still be buying Leica M10’s and the like, but my friends and colleagues, those lusting and wishing to try out rangefinders, will join the fray, put down their SLR’s, slow down their photography, and make better images…

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Digital CL Mock Up - Credit Tung Chao

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The solution, Leica, is the digital CL. It’s there for the making and taking.

Best,

Ashwin Rao

Certified Leica Nut!

Dec 292010
 

YES, I AM GIVING AWAY A LEICA M9!

EXCITING NEWS! If you are here reading this right now then YOU have a chance to win a black Leica M9 camera (VALUE: $6995). Yes, I said WIN, as in 100% give-away. The contest will be posted VERY soon, just working out the details but it will be 100% free to enter and EVERYONE and ANYONE will have a chance to win the camera.

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THANKS TO THE GENEROSITY OF ~6 (Seal)

The Black M9 that I will be giving away is being donated by ~6 (who just received his Titanium M9 last week, see his post HERE). Thanks to his kindness and generosity, one of you will be sporting an M9 of your own very soon.

What most of you already know is that the man who posts here as “~6″  is the recording artist and photographer Seal. If you did not know that, now you do. This contest/giveaway was his idea and when he approached  me about it I was VERY excited. I mean, what other website has given away something like a Leica M9? Seal is not only intensely passionate about music, but also photography and I am proud to call him on of my dearest friends. Ho cool is it that he is donating his personal BLACK M9 to give away here? IT’s AMAZINGLY INCREDIBLE!

Since he has been so generous with the M9 donation for the up coming contest I wanted to mention HIS new website.

Just recently Seal has launched a very cool photo website called picortwo.com and I urge you to go check it out and register to follow your favorite photographer. Basically you can follow any photographer on the site..Seal, his wife Heidi, or any of the other photographers on the site. Just by entering your e-mail address you will recieve a pic or two in your mailbox every day that they took during the day.

For example, if you are following Seal, every day you will get a pic or two in your email that he shot THAT DAY. It’s like you are following the daily life of the photographer you follow. So make sure you go check it out at picortwo.com. Browse the photographers and follow whoever you like. It’s REALLY cool and REALLY fun. Also, I want to show him some love back for donating his M9 for me to give away here.

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THE CONTEST DETAILS WILL BE ANNOUNCED SOON

I am still working out the details of how to run this contest. It probably will NOT just be a simple photo submission contest this time, but will most likely go a bit deeper. Whoever ends up winning the M9, we want that person to not only really want it, but we want that person to deserve it. Also, the winner will be picked by YOU, all of the readers. This keeps it on the up and up and 100% fair which is mandatory for me. This will be a worldwide contest so no matter where you are in this world, you can enter and win. I hope to have the contest up and running VERY soon!

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HELP SPREAD THE WORD!

I want as many photographers to know about this as possible. I want EVERYONE to be able to have a shot at this so help me spread the word by tweeting this, or by posting it to your facebook, or mentioning it wherever you can – digg, forums, or wherever! Just linking back to this page will help tremendously and make this contest a success.

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AS ALWAYS, I THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT! THIS SITE WOULDN’T BE GROWING WITHOUT IT!

Again, this site has been able to stick around and grow over the past  two years thanks you YOU, the readers. Those who come here every day to see whats new, to see the passion of photography alive and well and to join in the discussions.

Thanks to your guys helping me out with buying your photo gear from my links to B&H Photo and Amazon and supporting my sponsors like Dale Photo and J-Tec. Let’s not forget Ken Hansen who has been a true friend AND a great Leica dealer. So without that support, this site would not be where it is today and this contest would not exist.

So here are those direct links again and if you ever need any photo related gear you can use the B&H Photo Link HERE (not able to bookmark the B&H link, must be clicked on from this site). If you like AMAZON, anything you buy there will help me out with pennies on the dollar (it adds up) and you can use that link HERE (and can bookmark the Amazon link!).

Also, be sure to follow me on twitter, facebook and my RSS feed here. This all helps me out! Also, for more discussion you can visit my forums here on the site :)

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ONE MORE THANKS TO ~6

Finally, thanks again to Seal. Be sure to visit SEAL.COM for his music and news, and the new picortwo.com to follow some pretty cool photographers. Without HIS support, this contest would not be happening! You can also follow him on twitter HERE and facebook HERE. Again, show him some love for donating his personal M9 for this contest!

Dec 282010
 

FROM STEVE: Another superb guest article! Thanks to all who have been submitting these articles. I think it is amazing that we can all learn from each other and also, it has given me a breather and time to get refreshed and reloaded! I have some amazing surprises coming up soon…something AMAZINGLY special that you all will want to get involved in. Also..yes, my Pentax K5 review is coming SOON! Promise!

Enjoy this article/review of this fantastic lens for your M mount camera and thank you Michael for submitting it!

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The Leica M9 with Zeiss ZM 85mm Sonnar Lens Review by Michael Letchford

See his website HERE.

Having recently made the move from Nikon DSLRs to the Leica M9 for most of my general candid photography, I needed a longer throw lens for those can’t quite get close enoughí shots. Like a good chap, instead of rushing out and buying on impulse, I did my homework.

I read whatever I could find on the usual forums and websites, but was still undecided between 75mm and 90mm Leica lenses. Then, my excellent local Leica dealer Robert White’s Stuart Culley, while apologising for poor availability of Leica 90mm lenses, suggested a Zeiss f/2.0 85mm Sonnar as another option; particularly good, he thought, for portraits and full length people shots. That remark resonated because of some first class images I had seen right at the end of Steve’s February 10th article on the Leica 75mm Summicron, shot on the Zeiss, as a comparison to the Leica.

Steve and other writers have been impressed with the Zeiss and so, when I needed to make a final decision for a forthcoming trip, I decided on the Zeiss hoping that it would be the right choice. When it finally arrived, I made some quick test shots to get to know it and was quietly impressed with the way it draws, its colour and just the overall quality of the imagery. Then I took it with me to Venice for a couple of days and these are my first impressions of the combination. First, the test shots.

Yes, I know – is this a boring shot or what? Well, this was the first image from the lens and I kept it in because of the superb, subtle tones in the car’s hood and bright metalwork. This colour is difficult to capture, but the full size non-jpeg version, processed, is stunning. It’s a simple, nondescript image but it signposts the lens’s capabilities. I was encouraged.

But, oh dear. When I took some contra-jour images to see how it would cope with flare, I was somewhat surprised by the colour fringing on the burnt out highlights in some of the test images. Here you can see, on the left above, a 100 percent centre crop from an image taken at f/2.8 versus that on the right at f5.6. You can see substantial colour fringing around very high contrast edges until the lens is stopped down. Hmmm.

As you can see above, this is really significant when you inadvertently overexpose the image, as I did above, while experimenting with the bracketing of exposures. Ooops. Well, after this shoot I was very concerned that I might have a problem lens, so I revisited the articles I’d previously read to see if others had the same issue. Yup, in his 90mm RF Lenses test on the M8, Sean Reid noted the same issue on his pre-production sample, finding more Chromatic Aberration than expected at apertures greater than f4. Also, in his test on the ZF version of the same design his test shots show similar aberration levels on images from wide open to f4.

Hmmm again. However, rereading Sean’s closing remarks in his later comparative test of 90mm Leica. Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses, where he also re-tests a production Sonnar, he concludes;…” ‘it’s really impossible to ignore the exceptional performance of the Zeiss 85/2.0 Sonnar. This is a first rate optic…. (it) may, in terms of technical performance, be the best telephoto lens I have yet tested.”. So, I was comforted enough to try again, and with renewed enthusiasm aided by a gorgeous sunny day, I set off into the village to get the shots below.

Here you can see what can be achieved with the lens when the exposure is spot on. This is an old, very photogenic cottage in my village. The detail in the building and its roof makes it very useful as a test subject – particularly in bright sunlight together with some deeper shadows under the nearby trees. I just liked the way the Sonnar draws it – and those lovely colours. The image was shot in RAW and minimally converted in ACR. No contrast adjustments or sharpening were done.

Here are some 100 percent crops from around the centre and edges of the same image – again, all unsharpened and unprocessed except the bare minimum of conversion in ACR. Although this is reputed to be a high contrast lens, all these details are beautifully drawn and they stand out without the need for adding excessive contrast in post processing. The chimney detail crop reveals how beautifully the lens renders the subtle tones in the eathernware pots – great colours again – and if you’re concerned about how it captures detail at the edges, check out the fine wire mesh at the top of the right hand chimney pot.

Walking a bit further down the lane, I shot the image below. It’s shows an example of a dying craft called ‘Pargetting’. This is done by lime plastering a section of wall, or as here a decorative panel, and then drawing into the wet plaster to illustrate a rural scene. It’s a technique that was used on many village and civic buildings from the Late Tudor period (1500s to 1600s) right up to the early 1920s. Here you can see local farm workers felling and trimming a tree. Anyway, the image helps to show how the lens captures the textures without having to emphasize them with contrast adjustments.

There is also no trace of the aberrations I detected earlier. The high contrast edges around the windows in the shot below show that all is well when you get the exposure right.

Here is a 100 percent crop detail from the upper left of the image. No contrast adjustments or sharpening were added. Great colours in the roof tiles.

Below is a 100 percent crop detail straight from the RAW file from the centre of the image. No contrast adjustments or sharpening were added. Great rendition of the flint wall details too, and again, no trace of chromatic aberrations on the high contrast edges.

So, with that modest, but successful test behind me, I was ready for the real trip – an all too brief, two day vacation in Venice!

This image (below) was my first shot from the balcony of our hotel. It’s only about a third of the frame, from the centre – 85mm focal length doesn’t really isolate everything at this distance. It was shot at f4.0 at 1/1000th sec at ISO 160 – handheld. I was just trying to get used to the framing at this sort of distance, and framing your shot is a bit of a challenge with this lens. If composition is critical, to use as much of the frame as possible, then you’re going to have to practice quite a bit before you get what you were hoping for first time. Even if you dial in an appropriate lens code, you still get the 90mm framelines and they are different enough from the real view that critical composition is quite tricky. I need to practice more, obviously.

If you look closely, you can still see some chromatic aberration on the left shoulder of the gondolier and you can just detect the purple fringing on the near horizontal surface of his shirt, but it’s not too bad.

Look at the detail though – even at this modest sized picture you can still see the potential of this lens – finely drawn lines, nice colour and wonderfully subtle tonal gradations. Very nice, and the way it picks up the variety of tones and the translucency of the water, under the gondola and by the oar in the bottom left corner, is also excellent. Again, minimal processing and no sharpening.

Lots of people have commented on this lens being an ideal portrait lens, including Zeiss themselves. I think I’m right in remembering that they say that, because of deliberately uncorrected spherical aberrations inherent in their design, the lens gives beautiful renderings of slightly soft portraits and so lends itself directly to that kind of work. Well, actually, I was hoping that it might be capable of a greater range of subject matter than that. I think these shots suggest that’s very possible. Well then, how about some group shots?

This one is also only half the frame, from the left edge to the centre, so the standing gondolier is imaged on the extreme edge of the lens coverage – beautiful. The lower gondola is at the extreme bottom of the frame – check out the detail in the girl’s hair and the beautiful skin tones in her arms. The red haired chap in the bottom right hand corner has a printed T shirt on that is nicely rendered too. The gondola decoration, bottom left, and the water droplets are finely captured as well.

Unexpectedly, I really like this shot because of the ‘X’ composition of the people, the ‘chaos’ of detail and its overall sense of humour. Wherever you start looking at the picture, your eye is constantly drawn back in by the many lines of interest in the image. They really look like they were having such great fun! Shot at f/8.0 at 1/350th at ISO 160, handheld.

While I was busy concentrating on the shot above, I could hear someone below me, out of frame, singing the ‘Just One Cornetto’ Walls advertising campaign song to the tune of ‘O Solo Mio’. When I glanced down from the balcony there was this crazy guy singing his head off, in mock Italian, with his arms flung wildly apart at the crescendo of the song. A quick refocus and, pop, I got him. Of course my composition was off, so this crop is from one corner of the frame but, I like it. Not exactly posed, but he got my attention! I like the way all the heads lined up and the way the others are trying to ignore the noisy one; the guy in the grey T shirt is, I think, wishing he were somewhere else. Shot at f/5.6, 1/350th at ISO 160.

Next up was a walk around the Fish and Vegetable Market and here are a couple of shots using the lens at close up range, handheld, in very poor artificial light. Here are some red and green chillies shot at f/11.0, 1/45th at ISO 160. I made no contrast adjustments, nor did I add any sharpening.

This shot, is disgusting. These are some kind of eel, no idea which, but skinned the way they are and such an awkward and subtle colour to capture in the crazy lighting, I think it’s a creditable result from the lens. Again shot at close quarters at f/4.0, 1/45th at ISO 160. No sharpening or contrast adjustments – straight off the camera with minimum work in ACR.

Having been exhausted by trudging around a crowded Venice all day, I thought to catch some culture. So my wife and I took in a Vivaldi chamber music concert at a local Chapel that evening. Naturally, I made myself a bit of a nuisance in the interval by periodically popping up and down out of my seat, like a Jack-in-a-Box, to try a get a shot of the artists before they began the second part of the evening. As they were retuning their instruments, I managed this shot at f/2.0, 1/60th at ISO 1250 – handheld. Not a bad result at ISO 1250! The keen eyed among you will notice the aberrations again at the edge of the music’s maxed out highlight in the centre of the image. Ah well. Check out the lovely colours in the marble in the background upper left and the rendering of the Cellos on the right.

The following day, I tried again, and while my wife was trying out her new LX5, I experimented with some extreme backlit shots. This is one of my favourites. I can tell you that the upper 25% of this scene was completely washed out in the camera’s default jpeg. I kept it in, with the minimum of work in ACR to recover the highlights, to show you just what this lens is capable of in such conditions. The shot has its own grace and atmosphere, capturing the very spirit of the Venitian moment. Once again, check out the details in the distance and the way the scene is drawn – very, very nice stuff. Taken at f/5.6, 1/500th at ISO 160; no sharpening etc.

Just to make the point a little more obviously, here are some 100 percent crops from the same image – straight from the camera.

A little further along, I came across one of those surprise juxtapositions which catches your eye and you then spend the next ten minutes working out how to lay on the ground to get just the right angle to compose everything into the best geometric relationship while passers by step nervously over your prone body; hence this shot. I like the way the chimneys are out of focus but recognisable and the overhanging lamp is tack sharp in contrast. Image shot at f/5.6, 1/1000th at ISO 160 – handheld, on my belly in the dirt! Fabulous blue sky gradations.

As we returned to the hotel, looking across the Grand Canal, I noticed a beautiful, almost completely grey building facade with wonderful detailing caught in acute lighting, greatly emphasizing the texture of its stonework. Hence this shot. Taken at f/5.6, 1/3000th at ISO 160 (loads of light), handheld, with no sharpening or contrast adjustments, its shows what this lens can do right across the frame – it’s even caught a flying gull mid-flight on the upward wing beat – perfectly! If you can’t see it in the main image take a look at the 100 percent crops below. All straight from the camera.

And now for the humorous moment! This is a hilarious example of exasperated Italian temperament. The gate sign, so my wife tells me, which we just happened to walk past, says – ENOUGH! Stop with the Dog Shit! We are Furious! I’m not sure what the Arabic says below it, but I can guess. Couldn’t resist the image, and you can see how the lens has made a first class job of rendering it at close quarters. Taken at f/5.6, 1/180th at ISO 160 – handheld. This shot supports Erwin Puts’ conclusion that the Sonnar excels at close distances.

And here is a 100 percent crop from the centre of the image, again, straight from the camera.

Finally, a contra-jour shot of four gondoliers edging down a narrow canal towards the light. Since most of my work is usually monochrome, I thought I ought to just put one in among this unfamiliar orgy of colour. I just love the way this image is drawn – simple as that. Maybe it’s just me, but those subtle tones translate through to monochrome exceptionally well.

CONCLUSIONS

I think, without a shadow of doubt, that this lens is a genuine winner. Although my work is almost exclusively monochrome these days, this lens has a habit of reminding you that colour has it’s own intrinsic photographic value and it can seduce the eye with its own subtle rendering of scenes where colour is a major pictorial element of the overall image. It has a ‘personality’ – softer rendering when completely wide open, but rapidly rendering pin sharp, contrasty images as you stop down past F/2.8 and is wonderful at F/5.6. Couple this with beautifully subtle colour when it’s appropriate and it’s ability to record very fine details and I don’t think you could be disappointed with this lens.

Of course, it’s not a budget lens alternative to a comparable Leica lens and so it has to stand as an equal performer but with a different ‘character’. I think it achieves that with plenty to spare.

Incidentally, you’ll of course have noticed that I deliberately didn’t shoot any portraits. Ha! I hear you say – it’s a portrait lens. Well, that’s because I’m now working on the next step, which is how to use the lens as creatively as I can. Having satisfied myself that the Sonnar is a keeper, my challenge now is to see what can be achieved creatively – and I shall begin with a portrait or two. Hmmm.

PLEASE HELP TO SUPPORT THIS SITE TO KEEP IT GOING AND GROWING! I CAN’T DO IT ALONE!

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 facebook! 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!

Dec 272010
 

Hello

My name is A Habis and I live in London, UK

first of all, I’m a big fan of this website and I really enjoy visit it everyday, so thank you steve for your effort. I have been shooting street photography with Leica for three years now and I really enjoy it. Rangefinder is really the camera to use for street, it’s small, compact, it doesn’t get attention and it keeps you shooting for longer time!!

What does that mean? well, imagine you are carrying a DSLR around your nick for 5 hours, you will get bored and tired then it will be in the bag, so you more likely loss moments.

I will leave you with the photos, I hope you enjoy it:

Secondly , cameras and lenses used in the following shots:

1. Leica M9 and 50 f1.4 ASPH (Emotions)

2. Leica M9 and 28mm f2 ASPH (Winter days)

3.Leica X1 (classic London)

here is my website: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aaih88/

Thanks

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Dec 272010
 

The Leica M8 vs The Sony NEX-5 with the Leica 50 Summarit Lens

Happy Monday to all, and again, Happy Holidays! Today I decided to do a quick comparison between two cameras that are still pretty hot. The Leica M8 and the Sony NEX-5. Many say the NEX-5 is a better buy than the older M8 because with the Sony you can use an Adapter to mount Leica M lenses and from what I have been hearing, many are saying that this yields better results than using the Leica M8. First off, shooting these cameras will bring you two TOTALLY different experiences. With the M8 I can shoot MUCH faster and with superb precision over the NEX-5 with the same lens via an adapter. The M8 is a rangefinder and the NEX-5 as we all know, is NOT.

I also know there have been articles here and there about the NEX-5 with Leica glass, but this time I wanted to see the NEX go head to head against the M8 in regards to image quality using the same lens.

So this comparison is only about image quality. Is the NEX-5 capable of better image quality than the M8? It does have more megapixels at 14 vs 10. It does have better high ISO performance as well but the M8 has the advantage (or so it seems) because it does not have an AA filter, so we should get more detail from an M8 shot than a NEX-5 shot with the same glass, right? Or is it ALL BOUT THE GLASS?

I wanted to find out! So thanks to SLR Magic who sent me their very well made Leica M to Sony NEX Adapter, I was able to try yet another Leica lens on my NEX-5. Also, thanks to Leica Dealer Ken Hansen I was able to shoot the M8 along with the 50 and 90 Summarit lenses. He sent them to me to try out for a while since I never reviewed the 50 or 90 Summarits lenses, so that was VERY cool of him! Ken seems to always have used M8’s in stock as well as the Summarit lenses, and he always has amazing service and prices. If you are looking for any new or used Leica, send him an email at [email protected] and he will get back with you pretty fast.

OK! On to the pics!

First, a straight comparison. These two images are full size files out of the camera from RAW. No PP involved. What do you see between the two?

First up, The M8 file…click on the image for the full size version – 50 Summarit at F4

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now the file from the NEX-5 and 50 Summarit at F/4

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In the images above it seems the NEX-5 edges are TEENY BIT softer than the M8 (when viewing the full size image at 100%) but the NEX-5 is still pretty detailed and sharp. This is not meant to be a good picture, just a test shot. Plus, it was mid day and the AZ sun is pretty hard. Still we can see the same image shot with each camera and the same lens.

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Here is one more comparison between the two using the same 50 Summitar lens. In this one, the M8 file seems much sharper when viewing the full size file. Each camera has the 50 Summarit mounted and I shot these at f2/5

First the M8 file…

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and the NEX-5 file…

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In this one the M8 file is sharper and more vibrant with much more detail. This was all it took for me to see that the M8 is superior in regards to detail and even color. Also, the shooting experience for me was funner and faster with the M8. You do lose the high ISO capability, you lose the size advantage as the NEX is tiny, and you lose all of the whiz bang features of the NEX. Also, you would lose some cash. A used M8 is usually around $2200-$2600. Add the Summarit lens and you are at about $3600-$3800. The NEX-5 is $649 with a 16mm lens. Add adapter and lens and you would be at $2200 total. Still a load of cash huh?

One more quick “for fun” comparison…

First is from the Leica M8 with 50 Summitar at F/2

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Now the NEX-5 with 50 Summarit at F/2.5

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I did not add the M9 to this test because I usually see people comparing the NEX-5 to the M8. Yes the NEX can use Leica glass and YES it can provide awesome results, but the old M8 still stands above it just a bit for flat out IQ IMO. The NEX-5 and Leica glass combo is still pretty sweet though and the 50 Summarit lens is great on the camera. This is Leicas cheapest lens (that you can buy new) at about $1400 and it is a great little 50. It reminds me a little of the 50 Summicron but with a more modern signature. I still have not found a Leica lens I did not love :)

Below are a few more snapshots from both cameras.

NEX-5 – 50 Summarit – F/2.5

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NEX-5 – 50 Summarit – F/2.5

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Leica M8

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Leica M8 at ISO 1250

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Leica M8 and 50

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Both camera combos offer great IQ and the Sony color can be very rich and deep when using Leica glass. But for me, the shooting experience goes to the Leica M8 and the overall versatility goes to the NEX combo. I like ‘em both!

Again, thanks to Ken Hansen for sending me the M8 and lenses to try out for this test. I believe this used M8 that he sent me is for sale and it’s in perfect condition, box and all. If interested email him at [email protected] and ask him about the M8 I have right now. Ken is a great guy and he doesn’t pay me to mention him.

PLEASE HELP TO SUPPORT THIS SITE TO KEEP IT GOING AND GROWING! I CAN’T DO IT ALONE!

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 facebook! 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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