Jun 222011

Know your camera and you can do great things…

By Steve Huff

So last night I was shooting the Seal show in Vilnius Lithuania and upon arriving to the venue I realized it was going to be my biggest challenge yet for shooting. Why? Well, the arena was sort of drab, dark, and dull AND I was sort of forced to shoot SUPER close to the stage, like, right up against it. To add to that, the stage was VERY high up, almost as tall as me, so I knew any shot I took would be from a bad angle. What to do? How about throw on a 24 Summilux to the M9 and hope for the best? Yea, thats it. Luckily I had a 24 in my bag.

I decided to use the 24 because I KNOW my camera, and I knew exactly what kind of results I would get from slapping on a 24mm lens in the situation I was in. I also knew how the 24 Summilux would render and how I could get away with slow shutter speeds due to the M9’s capabilities with a steady hand.

The fill in temporary drummer Obed at sound check.  24 Summilux at 1.4 on the Leica M9

For most shows I shoot the 50 Noctilux 90% of the time but last night I shot the 24 Lux 90% and the results are quite different, but I like it. I liked it so much that after the show I was inspired to write yet another article, this time on “knowing your camera”. How many of you really know your camera? I mean, really know it? I know I do, and that helps me out more than you know!

Do you know what settings give you the best results for different situations? Do you know what lens will give you the best result for a given circumstance? Do you know its ISO performance max limits and the way to get the best images you can from it? Have you “bonded” with your camera? Yes, BONDED.  It sounds strange but I know there are many of you reading this who do indeed have a certain bond, a certain “oneness” with your camera. I know I have this with my M9, and I am actually starting to get there with the Fuji X100.

Shooting the 24 meant I had to be CLOSE, and since I was stuck up next to the tall stage I knew I could get some dramatic shots and great audience interactions.

Once you have this “bond” with your camera you can shoot without stress, without worry, without hassle. You go by instinct and by “seeing” and “doing”. When I walk around the crowd or near the stage I am always looking for the next shot, and at the same time I try my best to not repeat myself every single night. The last thing I want is to stress about settings or lenses or whatever. By having this bond with my Leica, I do not have ANY worries when the night starts as I know that as long as my camera is working, I will have many opportunities to capture the spirit of the performance.

The 24 Lux ROCKED last night in Vilnius! As always, I shoot these lenses as they were meant to be shot, wide open!

My job on this tour, if you can call it a job (I don’t as it’s been my lifelong passion..a dream come true) is to document this tour while I am along for the ride. Concert shots, video, behind the scenes stuff..whatever I can capture. Seal is not really my boss, but rather a great friend who puts ZERO stress on me and gives me 100% creative control on what to shoot. With that said, I always strive to do my best every show even though when I look at my photos I usually only end up really liking one or two shots. But as may of you know, as photographers we are always overly critical of our own work.

But as I said earlier, by really KNOWING my camera gear I can let my mind be free and just shoot organically. Does that make sense? I hope so.

So how does one bond with their camera? First, you have to really like your tool of choice. You have to enjoy holding it, shooting it, controlling it. If you do not even like your camera then it will be very hard to get this bond. The most important thing for me is to really enjoy USING the camera. This is why I am such a HUGE fan of the Leica M series. Film or digital, the usability factor is HIGH and once you know it inside and out you can shoot quicker and more effectively with an all manual M9 than even an auto focus blazing DSLR.

The 24 Lux with the M9 sitting on the stage captures Gus Isidore  – love the rendering of the 24 on the M9. Gorgeous.

Again, the 24 Lux wide open. We met this Mother & Daughter the day before while street shooting and here they are in the front row.

Of course I did slap the 50 Noct on every now and then…

Knowing my camera allowed me to get this shot of Seals silhouette.

To bond with your camera you also have to know its menu system. Learn it, know it and set it..them FORGET IT. I never change anything in my M9’s menu, ever. It is set the same as it was months ago. This way I know EXACTLY what to expect from it. No surprises. Again, when you know what to expect, you have that freedom to capture without the stress of technical details. Stress free shooting equals better images IMO.

In order to really connect with your photographic tool, you also need to be passionate about photography. If you have a true desire to shoot and create then you are 90% of the way there.

Once you have the passion along with a camera you really enjoy using, and you know its menu system and have set it up to your liking, then it is all about SHOOTING as much as possible. Before you know it you will have that connection with your camera.

Also learn all of the characteristics of your lenses. For this shot I knew the Noctilux would give me this amazing flare, and IMO it adds to the atmosphere of the shot.

Also knowing your depth of field – what will be and wont be in focus is key to creating images that match the vision you have in your head.

Carol Jarvis rocking out during “Amazing” – check her out on facebook HERE and press like!

I get asked all of the time how I create these photos with a manual camera. How they are so sharp, focused correctly and capture the feeling of the show. I’m not any kind of photography master, far from it. I chalk it up to really knowing my gear and my passion for what I do. SO stick with your camera and learn it, live it and take it with you everywhere. Before you know it, you will have that same bond with it and your photos will improve dramatically.

Hope you enjoyed the post! I am leaving for Brussels Belgium in 2 hours so have to get packing! I’ll leave you with a few more shots from last nights show…

Paul Summerlin, a new and awesome addition to Seals band as well as guitarist Mark Summerlins brother!

How about a shot from the Fuji X100? Here ya go! f/2! BTW, the title image at the very top of this page was also from the X100. Seems to do quite well but I can focus my M faster every time.

after the show its all about winding down, having fun and hanging out for a while



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Jun 222011


A Photographic Road Trip with the Leica X1 by D.J. De La Vega

This is the story of a photographic road trip with the Leica X1. Like any journey, I will start at the beginning:

Everything was now in place for a road trip of ambitious proportions. The logistics: I would be leaving my hometown in the North East of England to head off to Edinburgh, Scotland. From there I would fly to Newark Airport in the USA. Over the next four days I would drive over 1000 miles to Alexandria Bay, Oswego, Webster, Niagara and all the back to Manhattan for three days of Street Shooting. This was a deliberately photogenic route, mainly following the Great Lake Seaway Trail, a stunning byway that hugs the shore of Lake Ontario.

Here at the start of my voyage lay my first challenge: What camera gear to take? Approximately five years ago when I went on a slightly more modest trip around the Highlands of Scotland I took a Nikon D200, 12-24mm, 18-200mm, 50mm, 60mm macro and 70-300mm. I was prepared for every possible eventuality. With this in mind however, a wise man once said “If you aim at everything, you hit nothing”.

This time around I was seriously considering leaving all my equally extensive kit at home and only carry my unassuming Leica X1. With no huge telephoto, no super wide angle and a mediocre macro mode, it is on paper not necessarily cut out for such a diverse photographic expedition. However as my DSLR gear was now gathering dust after sitting in a bag, rendered obsolete by more than a year spent exclusively shooting with the little Leica, I went with my gut and decided just to take the X1.

So there I was packed and ready to leave with the X1 in hand. This was my first shot of the morning waiting to get on the train to Scotland. Instantly this photograph put me at ease with my decision to leave the DSLR and plethora of lenses behind. The prospect of being limited to such an iconic focal length now excited me. It would be my photographic skills I would be exploring and not the effectiveness of different lenses for different situations.

Upon arrival in Edinburgh a world of picturesque opportunities were unfolding and presenting themselves exclusively for me and the X1. At this stage of my article I will point out how difficult it has been to edit down the photographs I have taken as I have got so many shots I regard as “keepers”. Even though I eventually took slightly more than 10 GB worth of photographs over the week (I shoot RAW), the number of camera actuations was far less than I ever imagined. Historically with a DSLR I would shoot and shoot and not stop: and why should I? Instantaneous shutter response, full automatic setting with a gazillion auto focus points, million area multi matrix metering and unlimited space on Compact Flash cards. It was the equivalent of wielding a photographic machine gun!

It only took a few hours of shooting the street in Edinburgh to dawn on me that I take far fewer photographs with this camera. Was it a conscious effort as it is a slower camera and shooting fully manual takes more time and creativity to get a good shot? Or was it a sub conscious side effect of shooting in a simpler, more traditional, historic style? Whatever it is, I do it and I like the results. I no longer shoot endless photographs of the same subject. I spot a moment take a shot and if I miss it, I move onto the next opportunity.

The next morning it was time to hop on the plane and embark on the biggest leg of the journey. Once I safely landed in New Jersey, there was no time to lose. It was straight in the car and drive approximately 350 miles north to the beautiful town of Alexandria Bay. Arriving at dusk I was greeted by a spectacular sunset over Heart Island.

Over the next two days I was immersed in stunning nature and beautiful scenery travelling down the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. I was enthralled by the local architecture, mesmerised by the iconic landscapes and enamoured with the more intimate secluded bays and forest trails.

So far I had not once missed the lenses I left behind. Without doubt, if I had a 12mm Nikon, I would have probably found use for it, but would it have made a better photograph or just a different one? I began to realise that historically I had probably spent more time chopping and changing lenses for particular applications than I did actually shooting with any one lens. By not having to decide which focal length to use, my mind was purely focused on capturing the opportunities that materialised before me; documenting them as I saw them with no distractions.

Eventually I found myself at the magnificent Niagara Falls. Sometimes I find it difficult to photograph such a famous, well documented landscape as I am constantly aware that millions of people will have taken the exact same shot from the exact same angle. I tried as always to look for unique perspectives and idiosyncratic moments, but also believe if I am somewhere with my camera, it is far better for me to create my own postcard style picture of such an iconic scene than buy someone else’s off a rack.

Another lengthy drive was now required to head south to Manhattan. I was looking forward to finally getting to test the X1 in the area many people would either argue it was specifically built for or quarrel it just could not compete with its M siblings; Street Photography. How would this handy travel companion hold up in the city renowned for its street scenes? I’ll let you be the judge as to how successful the results are, but in practice, I’ve got to say the X1 coped admirably. This camera is a joy to use and because of its size and weight can be around your neck every waking minute of the day; at hand waiting patiently to be deployed as an extension of your eye at the presentation of something noteworthy enough to point a camera at. Its speed was more than adequate to capture pretty much everything I asked of it and if I missed a shot it was because I did not spot it early enough and by the time I had raised the camera, the moment had passed.

I quickly realised as I walked through the streets that I could very quickly drain my batteries with all the colourful characters and photogenic happenings at every turn. It was time to go old school and really test how good the X1 is at capturing the street as an unadulterated photographic tool. It was time to turn off the LCD and image review and rely solely on the 36mm Brightline Viewfinder. Shooting away at my heart’s content only to review the images that night in retrospect. No second chances, no reshooting the same scene over and over. I shot mostly in aperture priority mode and one spot centre weighted focusing. I would focus on the desired object and reframe the scene with my finger half pressed on the shutter. I found this to be a quick and efficient means of capturing the moment.

I was beginning to realise why so many people shoot the street in New York. The people here are a diverse mix of too laid back and too darn busy to be concerned that people were brandishing cameras about. I felt a lot more freedom than in my native England to get close the action and throw caution to the wind. The 35mm focal length was absolutely coming into its own! As I explored the city I found Central Park to be a hub of extroverted characters and wondrous and quaint occurrences.

As well as photographing the superb photographic opportunities that transpire with the people in NYC, it would have been a crime not to document the city itself. The architecture is so magnificent it has a personality of its own. Like at Niagara, I constantly tried to find a compromise between the iconic postcard views and more unique perspectives. Theoretically one could argue that there are no “unique” perspectives any more, but that would be quite a depressing, sombre philosophy for any photographer to subsist with.

Of all the areas I ambled upon in Manhattan, possibly the most vibrant and rewarding was that of The Bowery and China Town. The people and ambience somehow felt more “authentic”. It was a long way from Central Park with the brazen street performers and therefore sometimes I had to work up the courage to lift up the camera to my eye. However I soon defeated my nerves and I found the X1 to be quite inconspicuous and my confidence grew allowing me to get closer to the action.

Regrettably I had reached my last evening in Manhattan. I had loved every minute of shooting the street with the X1 and had not once bemoaned its ability to capture any given scene. I appreciate it is not as fast at focusing as a DSLR, and the viewfinder is only optical, no electronic information is transmitted across to reassure you as to what you are capturing. Yet it is specifically this simplicity that feels truly organic for me in using this practical, no-nonsense photographic instrument. I choose the shutter speed, aperture, ISO and then frame the glass through a glass viewfinder then shoot; fundamental photography at its best.

Thanks for reading my article if you made it this far. You can check out some of my other Leica X1 experimentation and photography here:




All the best

D.J. De La Vega

The Leica X1 is available through Dale Photo, Ken Hansen and B&H Photo!

Jun 212011

News Update

The new Leica M9-P and 21 Super Elmar 3.4 lens

As many of you have known for a while now, Leica is getting ready to announce the Leica M9-P camera which is basically an M9 with Sapphire Glass, no Leica red dot logo or “M9” engraving so the front looks like an MP. The one I have held and seen was chrome and it is flat out amazingly gorgeous. The top is inscribed like an MP with the Leica name. There will be no new features to the camera, just an M9 with cosmetic enhancements and sapphire glass. If I could swap my grey M9 with some cash for an M9-P I would in a heartbeat. It looks like an MP, and in chrome but with Vulcanite. It really is a gorgeous looking and feeling camera. I may see one of these in my future as THIS is what a digital M should look like!

Leica is also announcing the 21 3.4 Super Elmar wide angle lens. This lens is all about size and it is TINY. I have also seen and handled this lens already and it is a beauty. If you want a small 21 for landscape or architecture be sure to put this one on your short list.

As far as I know, that is about all that is coming from Leica today. I heard that the M9-P will also be available in Black Paint, which will also be pretty sweet. The official word comes from Leica later today in Paris!




Designed particularly for professional photographers, new ultra-discreet version of the Leica M9 added to Leica rangefinder portfolio

Solms, Germany (June 21, 2011) – Leica Camera AG is proud to present a new version of the world’s smallest, full-frame digital system camera: the Leica M9-P. This new model will sit alongside the Leica M9 in the company’s rangefinder portfolio. Providing an alternative, even more discreet and resilient design that further reinforces the classic nature of the M9, the M9-P specifically meets the needs of professional photographers. The new model is now available in a classic silver chrome or subtle black paint finish.

Featuring the compact size, full-frame, 18 megapixel 24 x 36mm sensor (35mm format), sophisticated image processing and robust construction of the highly successful Leica M9, the M9-P also incorporates features designed for professional users or photographers who prefer a pure, even more unobtrusive styling.

The Leica M9-P includes a scratch-resistant, sapphire crystal covering on the LCD screen. Produced using special diamond cutting tools, this screen is fashioned from one of the world’s hardest and most resilient materials. Extremely resistant to wear and almost unbreakable, the sapphire glass LCD cover offers many years of reliable use. Additionally, the anti-reflective coating on both sides of the cover improves the review of images on the display after capture, particularly in unfavorable lighting conditions.

Finished in vulcanite leatherette, the external covering of the body of the M9-P is particularly resistant to wear. This leathering features a more coarsely-textured finish that ensures a steadier grip when shooting, making the M9-P feel particularly safe and secure in the hand.

Fulfilling the needs of many professional photographers to capture the decisive moment as discretely as possible, the Leica M9-P’s minimalist styling highlights its most essential features. The Leica red dot logo and the M9 lettering on the front have been omitted and replaced with the Leica name in classic script form engraved on the top plate, making the M9-P the quintessential unobtrusive tool.

Since 1954, the Leica M-System has represented an unmistakable, individual kind of photography and a very conscious photographic style and allowed photographers to capture, document and interpret life’s fleeting moments in all fields of photography, from photojournalism, reportage and ‘available light’ to the capture of portraits and aesthetic, fine-art images. With a Leica M, the photographer becomes a ‘part of the action’ when capturing challenging, authentic and creative images. The frame lines frame precisely the shot the photographer envisages, while allowing a clear view of the scene outside the viewfinder frame.

The functions of the Leica M are consistently constructed for extreme durability and a long working life. The highest quality materials, intricate manufacturing processes and meticulous manual assembly at Leica Camera’s facility in Germany guarantee functional reliability for years to come.

The Leica M9-P will be available from Leica dealers in two different finishes, black paint or traditional silver chrome, beginning July 2011.

Jun 212011

Vilnius Lithuania – My walk through this photogenic town

By Steve Huff

So here I am today..another day of serious photo opportnities! I am in Vilnius Lithuania for the next stop on the Seal European summer tour and yesterday I walked around quite a bit snapping shots of this lovely charming town. Had my Fuji X100 (new firmware rumored to be coming within the week) and Leica M9 with me and both gave me wonderful results, can’t complain about either of these lovely cameras.

I started the day early morning as the weather was brisk, cool, and sunny. In other words, PERFECT! Back home in Phoenix it is 110 and sunny so I am really enjoying this weather while I can get it! As I looked out of my hotel window I thought “Perfect Photo Weather”!

BTW, I am also staying at a beautiful hotel here in town and had to snap a couple as I left my room. Love the old world charm of this place.

Next three shots, M9 and 35 Summicron ASPH – THE 35 Cron Character shines through here…

As I made my way down the stairs and outside of the hotel I started snapping the little X100 quite a bit as I started to become addicted to its ease of use and lovely EVF. Also, after shooting it so much, I have really learned its strengths and its weaknesses. As I have always stated,  It is in NO WAY like shooting an M9 but  it’s also a joy to use, and the output is astoundingly great at times.

CLICK for larger version – X100 at its sweet spot, f/4

Even f/2 works well on the X100 and can be a sweet spot at the right distance. With a 35, you do have to get up close to your subjects! I thought the dog was gonna eat my X100…

X100 – f/2

X100 – f/4

X100 – f/4

Bring on the M!

I then started to shoot with the M9 to see how the difference in usability and feel would be. Ahhhh, when the M hit my hands I remembered why I love rangefinder shooting so much. Not to knock the Fuji as it is THE camera right now but  the M and me just seem to “jive”.

Click image for 1200 pixel wide version – M9 and 35 at f/2 – colors…WOW!

and I did take the same shot with the Fuji though at 2.8 –

After a while I started to get hungry AND thirsty so I found a street cafe, picked a good seat to people watch and then ordered a beer. Was amazingly nice to just sit there and say to myself , “Wow..I am in Lithuania!”

So there I was, just me and my M9/35 Cron when a guy walks by and does a double take, looking at me. He asked if I was Steve Huff, and after a quick introduction it turned out he is a fan and reader of this web site! HOW COOL IS THAT!

He sat down and chatted for about an hour, had a beer and I enjoyed a pretty tasty pizza. Terry, it was great to meet you and THANK YOU for your company! I always enjoy meeting the readers of the web site and photo fans in general (and I can not wait for the Seattle meet up in July!!)

Terry mentioned that he recently picked up an M8 and 35 Cron, and from what it sounded like, he is enjoying it quite a bit.

Terry at lunch – M9/35 cron


Rain Rain go Away, but bring good light!

While at lunch it started pouring rain horribly so I tried to wait it out a bit but it just kept coming down. I hung around the cafe and tried to find a photo but with everyone scurrying away from the rain, there really was nothing to shoot. I ran back to the hotel as my M9 got soaked, but it survived as did I :) Who needs weather sealing? Haha.

After an hour or two back in the room I heard from Seal via text and we ended up taking a photo stroll through the town, after the rain stopped. I attached the trusty Nocti to my M9 and I have to say…the Noctilux seems to just always provide crazy magic and YES INDEED it can be used as an everyday lens, as that is how I have been using it. This new version is absolutely stunning at any aperture.

Wide open – Seal enjoying some magic light time with his M9 and 90 Summarit, which he is loving.

Lots of dogs in Vilnius – this little yorky was having a good old time while the dude was giving me a thumbs up

Fashion in Vilnius – lots of cool people. This one was shot from the hip wide open at 0.95! Man I am SKILLED! Lucky!

As we walked we met Sylvia and Laura who were hanging outside of a restaurant chatting.

and as we walked further we started getting approached every 20 feet or so. These sisters were very sweet girls.

EVERYONE we met was lovely and happy, which was so cool. Seal signed some autographs and took pictures with fans as we continued our walk..

After a 3 1/2 hour walk and some dinner we headed back to the hotel. That is when I realized I had been shooting the whole day. It flew by though because taking photos is what I love to do most and I feel amazingly blessed to be here and to be able to fulfill my passion every single day. Sharing that same passion with great friends is even better!

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed the photos from my day in Vilnius Lithuania!

Jun 192011

Looks like Leica is rolling out the special editions! The M9-P Hammertone was seen last week, and now there is one with a special edition CHROME Noctilux. Wow…that is going to be one hell of  pricey rig. To see all of the info on these special edition M’s, even a new film MP3..the CLICK HERE!. Skimpy thin wallets need not apply (that would be me). Haha.

Jun 192011

Seal in Parnu Estonia 2011: Challenges & Rewards of shooting concerts without a Zoom

By Steve Huff

Happy Sunday morning to all! Don’t you just love Sundays? I usually DO love them because Sunday is usually my lazy day off. This way I wake up on Monday energized and ready to post something new to this very web site. As I write this though, it IS in fact Sunday and I have some free time today after shooting a Seal show last night in Parnu, Estonia.

At this moment, I’m sitting here in my hotel room for the last day in Tallinn, Estonia. We will all leave here in about 5 hours for the airport to head to Lithuania for the next show. Just last night (Saturday) I shot the 1st show of the tour in Parnu, Estonia and right off the bat let me say WOW WOW WOW! This was a VERY energetic and fast flowing show.

Instead of just posting images from the show, this time I wanted to write a little but about the challenges of shooting a concert without zooms…meaning only prime lenses. Also, I am not posting every image I shot at this show in this post. More can be seen at SEAL.COM if you are interested in seeing more from the Parnu show. I also have my Seal 2011 gallery HERE if you want to see my fave past shots. So, on to this post…

It all started with Sound check as the band went through a few tunes with Seal… as always, click the images for better versions.

This one was shot with the 90 Summicron Leica sent me to borrow for this tour. Even with the slight misfocus, I love this image. In fact, I prefer it slightly out of focus.

on the other hand, for this tour my Noctilux has been tuned up and is focusing like a champ…

Holly Palmer – one of the new backup singers for the show

For this summer European tour there have been some band changes and additions and I have to say, I have never heard Seal sound better live. Maybe it was the fact that it was still bright outside at 10pm, or maybe it was just that crazy excitement of the first show of the tour that energized everyone, because the whole band was in top form.

1st pic: Me just before showtime all geared up.

J.R. – Fuji X100 – He was wantig to buy my X100 and offered me $1350 on the spot but I turned down the offer :) I do believe Seal sold him one though as he had an extra.

I had my M9 along with a 24 Lux, 50 Noct and 90 Cron. Also had the X100 but it did not get used much at all, if at all. I only shot with it during the soundcheck. Why? Well, when you shoot a concert, or in my case, a tour, some days can be better than others.

Every day when I arrive to the venue I immediately look at the setup of the stage, wether or not there are barriers, and if I will have room up front to shoot. Sometimes, like this first show in Parnu, there were no barriers which means I had to try to squeeze my way through the crowd to get close enough to shoot. Getting in close is the best way to get shots when shooting with a 50 or 35, and to get more intimate images as well.

Sometimes the fans do not like this as they think I am just some gung ho photographer trying to push my way in front of them. I usually get an odd look or two when moving up, and sometimes, like yesterday, I could not position myself to where I really wanted to be because it was so crowded up front.

Be The Zoom

Shooting the shows with just a 50mm means that I HAVE TO BE THE ZOOM. I am fine with this as it is how I shoot, and how I always shoot but some nights are just tough to get the right angles. This makes some nights a real challenge, but I am always up for a challenge and welcome them. In fact, it pushes me harder to get better results with what whatever situation I am dealt with.

Seal in Parnu Estonia 2011 – M9 and the 50 Noct, all wide open at 0.95

I Like to Keep It Simple

Many pro concert photographers have loads and loads of gear. Usually two pro DSLR’s, mass amounts of memory cards, lighting and flash equipment, triggers, and multitudes of lenses. They have cameras set up on stage and have full roaming access and can even position themselves ON stage! I am sure that with all of this equipment you can get some killer shots like THIS guy (love the Bon Jovi Elvis impersonation). I am sure if I wanted to lug around some pro Nikon gear and some super wides and mass zooms I could get some shots like that but upon closer inspection, I am not sure I would want to.

I am in no way knocking his work, hell,  he seems to kicks the pants off of me and his images capture the moment, excitement, and thrill of the show but personally, for me, I like more artistic personal types of shots. I love to play with the color, the depth of field as well as the emotion, and the sweat and excitement of the moment. I also don’t want some automated trigger and flash shooting my shots on stage. I guess I believe more in the Jim Marshall approach (RIP). He is the only concert shooter I have ever been inspired by, and back in his day he walked in with a couple of Leicas strapped to him and shot the show and the personal moments before and after.

Jim’s images with Hendrix, Cash, Dylan and Morrison have what I like to call “Soul”. Was it the Leica that had a hand in this? Not sure, but to me, Jim’s style managed to create classics.

Again, it is all about simplicity. With a simple tool such as a Leica M9 and one 50mm lens, magic can be made. No flash, no zooms, no auto focus. When you hit it, you hit it. When you don’t, you can even still walk away with a great photograph. Other times you walk away with nothing but when you do, it feels really great.

Seal In Parnu. I missed focus in the 1st shot but Seal was in a moment, and that moment was captured. Shooting something like the Nocti or even a 50 Summilux ASPH propels a shot from flat and boring to deep and emotional. The Silhouette is Seals fave shot of the Parnu show. It may also be mine. Why? Because it breaks free from the norm of most concert images.

Over 95% of concert photos I see were taken with Nikon or Canon with Zooms and Flashes. This kind of system will indeed provide you with an almost foolproof way of getting great shots but I have to say it…the results usually look like all of the other concert shots out there.

I have scoured and scoured the net and studied thousands or even tens of thousands concert images and almost all follow the same DSLR/FLASH/ZOOM formula. I could switch to that route but to me that would not be as rewarding, even if I only manage to capture one magical shot per show with my M compared to 20-30 with the gizmos and gadgets.

Before anyone starts commenting that I am a Leica fanboy, what I say can also be done with a D700 or 5D and a 50 1.4, or 85 1.4. Doesn’t have to be a Leica. I am just not into Zooms and flash.

All in all this article was supposed to be about the challenges of shooting concerts with prime lenses but it has seemed to kind of stray off track a bit due to my rambling. Basically, it really is a challenge to shoot a concert without a zoom but my take on it is that you will always get more creative results when you do so. Want to stick out from the crowd a bit? Use one camera, one fixed focal length, and use your body, eye, and mind to create the magic.

Not all of the great shots happen on stage. I always take a walk around during the show to see what is going on in the crowd. Nocti wide open.

90 cron, f/2 (should have shot it a 2.8)

So even though I can’t stand and zoom to compose my shot, even if I don’t have AF, and even if I do not always get a good position to shoot in and a ZOOM would be an easy way to get a shot, I still would not give up shooting the shows with the M9 and Noctilux, which is the perfect lens for this kind of work (IMO) and gives me many rewards back.

As I was sitting here writing this time has flown by and it is now time for me to pack and get everything together for the flight out. Until next time!

The f/0.95 flare…

Jun 182011
Hi Steve,

I decided to mail you some photos for your Daily Inspiration piece.

I’ve been into photography for about a year and a half now, and I’ve always gone for film over digital. I prefer the look of film, and I like the way the cameras don’t get in your way. My pride and joy is an old Leica M6, and I used it to take these pictures at Belfast Zoo. At the zoo, the people are more sometimes more interesting than the animals.

I used a 50mm summicron, and a 35mm summarit.

There’s more of my stuff at http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguelymanley

I hope you like the shots, and keep up the good work.

Pat Keegan

Jun 182011

Seal Tour Rehearsals are OVER, it’s almost SHOWTIME!

Sitting in my hotel room nearly 5000 miles away from home today and relaxing before the big night. I’m still in Tallinn getting prepared to shoot some photos and video at the kickoff Seal show tonight in Parnu, Estonia. It’s still strange to me that it is 9 am here and 11pm at home in Phx, AZ. Makes it tricky for talking with loved ones who I am already missing :)

This past week has been all rehearsals and preparing for the show. There have been some new additions to the band and I have to say that they sound incredible and pretty damn powerful. Hanging in Tallinn has also been a treat as the weather has been nice and cool, the people fantastic and the hotel and food wonderful. Also, photographing Tallinn has been AMAZING.

But now it’s time to get rolling as the first show of the Summer Europe tour starts in about 9 hours. For the next few weeks I will be shooting with the M9, 24 lux, 50 Noct and 90 Summicron for the concert photos along with a few here and there with the X100, to test out out in a concert setting. Also, I’ll be shooting some behind the scenes video with the Iphone and 8mm app which I think is pretty freaking amazing for an el cheap-o phone app.

Soon we will all be on the road bussing it across Europe. Should be many photo opps ahead :)

I may also shoot some video with the NEX or X100…we’ll see how that goes later. I’ll be posting some cool stuff every time I get a few hours and WiFi, so check back every day! I’ll leave you with a couple of shots from rehearsals…

Fuji X100 at ISO 3200 during rehearsals on Thursday

Gus Isidore on Guitar – X100 at ISO 800 –  f/2

Marcus Brown – bass/keys – M9 and Nocti wide open…

With Carol Jarvis (Trombone/Keys/Vocals) – Nocti wide open

Here is a shot taken with the M9 and a 50 Summilux PRE-ASPH at 1.4

and another of guitar tech McBob with the Lux Pre-Asph at 1.4…

New addition to the Band, Holly Palmer and Paul Summerlin

Jun 172011

Is the Leica Noctilux a good choice as an every day lens?

Things to consider before making that purchase…

By Steve Huff

Over the past two years I have received at LEAST 100 e-mails asking me about the Leica Noctilux and if it would be a good choice as an ONLY lens for a Leica M system. Since many of my articles spawn from reader e-mails I decided to write up a short piece on shooting the Noctilux as an only lens, and if it is a wise choice to do so. Now of course this is all just my opinion so you can take it or leave it but I do have experience with just about EVERY Leica lens and both Noctilux versions, the f/1 and f/0.95.

The reason I have had that question come through my inbox so many times is because the current f/0.95 Noctilux is a $10,495 masterpiece of a lens and there are quite a few M9 owners out there who have thought of selling their three lens kit to fund just ONE 0.95 Noctilux. Let’s face it, no matter who you are $10,495 is loads of cash for just one 50mm camera lens! The more I think about it, the more crazy it sounds.

Leica Lenses have been great investments…

When I bought my old F1 Noctilux brand new about 6-7 years ago it was $3500 and I had a hard time justifying it then. Today at over $10k this lens is out of reach to most of us, but at the same time it’s qualities are so amazing and unique that many of you have considered selling off other things to fund it. Even that old f/1 version today sells for well over $5000 USED. I have seen it go for as high as $7000…used. So those who bought one new a few years back had some huge appreciation on the lens. Most fast Leica glass is like this these days, plus the Nocti is so damn hard to get I have even seen the new version sell for $13k used!

So the big question is this: Is the Leica Noctilux., F/1 or F/0.95, usable as an every day lens or is it too heavy and slow to focus?  Is it worth the cash?

The good news is that I will do my best to answer this based on MY experience with the lens, and will also be providing some new photo samples along the way. The bad news is that what is good for me and not good for me, may not be the same for you but read on to see what I think about this whole subject.

To see the images at their best, click on them to see the larger and better version

Leica M9 and Noctilux f/0.95 at f/2 – The colors this lens produces are simply delicious.

There was a time when the only camera and lens I owned was a Leica MP along with the older Noctilux F/1, which is quite a bit smaller and lighter than the current Noctilux 0.95. I took that rig everywhere… shooting street, shooting portraits and just goofing around the house with it. When I purchased the M8, there was also a great while when all I had was a Noctilux. I remember falling in love with the lens after seeing what it could do. That old F/1 Nocti has some serious mojo going on with its classic and sometimes swirly Bokeh. You either love it or you don’t but I was one who really enjoyed it.

Thing to consider #1 – The Nocti is one heavy beast

These days, I am lucky and blessed enough own the new Noctilux f/0.95 and find it to be one of the best, if not the best lens I have ever shot with. It is quite amazing and special, and I really can’t afford any other fast Leica glass so many days it is just me and the huge heavy Monster. When on the camera it is VERY front heavy. The M9 with the Nocti is a beast of a machine but still lighter than something like a Nikon D700 and Zoom or big prime. It also happens to be THE MOST unique camera and lens combo EVER created for 35mm digital or analog. PERIOD.

But keep in mind that if you are considering buying this lens, or getting on a waiting list for one, that it is HEAVY and unlike most of  the small and light Leica glass you may have tried already. Also, while this lens is huge and heavy (for an M mount lens) it is built better than my freaking house and could also double as a weapon if you ever needed aid in self defense from someone trying to rob you of your camera. I mean, this thing could kill someone.

Shooting the Noctilux 0.95 wide open will usually make any subject look amazing :)

and again, the rich colors just POP with a depth you normally do not find in other lenses…

Thing to consider #2 – It’s a 50, and only a 50…

If you are considering this as an only lens, make sure you really enjoy the 50mm focal length. Some of you are 28 shooters, some are 35 and I suspsect MOST are 50mm shooters. This focal length is pretty much my fave along with a 35. Give me a 35 or 50 any day and I would be happy and easily adapt with just that one lens. A 50mm is good for many things..portraits, scenery, landscape, and everything in between. It’s like the jack of all trades in the lens world. The Noctilux also happens to be the best 50mm in the universe. The build, the exotic glass, the engineering and the love and care that goes in to assembly is what makes this lens so special.

Shoot it at f/0.95 or fully stopped down and you just get breathtaking performance. My Nocti was just in for calibration (needed an adjustment as it was 2+ years old and used all over the world..banged, beaten and a true workhorse) and it is now SCARY good. I now never miss focus, EVER! What I see is what I get in my VF. It’s always so nice to have an M system with the camera and lenses in perfect calibration!

As a side note, Some of you may remember a couple months back when I was in Brazil and I put up a test between the 50 Summicron and the Noctilux. It showed the Nocti was soft when I shot it at infinity. MUCH softer than the 1/5th price Summicron. Well, the reason for that was, and I know this now, is that my Nocti was out of alignment. Now that it is fixed it will not only match the cron, but would beat it for color, contrast and smoothness.

No more focus errors with my Nocti…it’s now PERFECT

So if you are OK with the lens being heavy and only a 50mm and are still lusting after it then you are half way there :)

Thing to consider #3 – It has a long focus throw, so can take more time to focus…

When you shoot this lens wide open at f/0.95 you have to be precise with your focus and Leica knows this. If you are even slightly off when you focus then your shot will just not give you that classic pop and 3D depth you expect from a lens of this caliber. I have to say that there is all of this nonsense online that has been spread around for years now that this lens is hard to focus. THIS IS NOT TRUE! If your lens and body are calibrated to Leica specs then this lens is just as easy to focus as any other fast 50. If you can line up your focus in the RF patch and you glass is calibrated correctly then your images will be in focus.

Sure at 0.95 there is shallow depth of field but I have NO problem achieving focus though the focus “throw” is long. What does  this mean? It means instead of turning the focus ring a very short distance to focus, you will have to turn it more and more as the focus patch will move slowly, so you can be precise and not over or undershoot your focus. This is a good thing in that respect, but if this is your only lens then you may need a bit of practice before you get used to it. On the street I can focus a 50 Summicron or Summilux quicker but again, I will not get that Nocti look from either of those lenses, though the 50 Summilux ASPH can at times come close.

This is a JPEG right from the M9. The Nocti has a way of producing images that are smooth but have amazing depth. The color is also outstanding.

Wide open and well calibrated this lens is nothing short of perfection

If you are ok with the long focus throw, then there is only really ONE last thing to consider if you are thinking of making this your ONLY lens.

Thing to consider #4 – $10,495…are  you ready to get serious?

This lens is the most expensive 35mm lens EVER to be sold. It is also the most unique but it is so priced out of the range of so many people, which in turn, makes it so unique. If everyone owned a Nocti 0.95 then the lens would not be so special anymore as the web would be filled with Noctilux shots! Leica knows what they are doing and they price this lens the way they need to but does that mean you are ready to plunk down almost $11,000 to fund the fastest lens in the world, possibly selling off other lenses to do so?

If you are in love with the Noctilux “look” and 50mm is your focal length, and you do not mind the weight and slow focus throw AND you won’t feel sick in the morning after spending $11000 on a camera lens, then GO FOR IT! While the weight sometimes gets to me, it is still better than walking around with a huge hulking DSLR around your neck and the results can be quite spectacular. This lens is the worlds best 50mm lens for the 35mm format and if you love your Leica M, there is no more satisfying lens than the Nocti.

Besides, you could always buy the Noctilux and a cheaper Voigtlander 35 so you have another focal length. The Nocti is magic, plain and simple but it will not be everyones cup of tea. It is one of those “lifetime” lenses, and who knows..in 10 years it may be worth $20,000 :)

Im gearing up as tomorrow night me and my Nocti will be shooting the 1st Seal show of this tour in Parnu Estonia. Can’t wait to shoot it now that it is all calibrated and focusing PERFECTLY!

I will leave you with a few more shots from today around Tallinn Estonia where we are staying until Sunday. Enjoy! If you have a Noctilux, new or old, leave a comment and let me know what YOU enjoy about this special lens. In my opinion, it is one of the things that make the M9 so special, just because you can mount this lens! The Fuji X100 can NOT do that.



Jun 162011

Crazy Comparison! The Leica M9 with 35 Summicron vs the Fuji X100

By Steve Huff

I have been getting emails for a few weeks now asking me to post some full size images from the Leica M9/35 Summicron vs the Fuji X100…side by side shots, same settings, etc. What some of you want to see is just how the little X100 stacks up against the Leica $10,000 combo in the image quality department. This comparison will ONLY be on image quality as the usability of each camera is WAY different.

The M9 is a manual rangefinder camera and the Fuji is pretty much a point & shoot, though a very nice point & shoot. I have been shooting both while here in Tallinn, Estonia and I have to say that the little X100 has been a joy to use. Quick, easy, and reliable. I can’t help but imagine what would happen if Fuji released this in all black WITH the capability of interchangeable lenses. Something like an X200 with a 24, 35, 50 and 90 f2 set of lenses. Wow.

On the other hand, the Leica M9 still shoots and feels like a “real” camera. I have  that “bond” with it that is hard to beat. When you have this bond, and the took becomes a part of your eyes and brain, then it is  tough to beat in actual use. BUT, if the Fuji can come close to the M9 and 35 cron, it would be cheaper to buy an X100 instead of a 35 and take the savings for another lens! Then again, if you own and love your M9 and have no need for a 2nd camera, then the 35 cron would be the best bet as it is a superb lens as is every Leica 35mm.

Also, let me note that my M9 and lenses just came back from Leica last week where they calibrated the camera and lenses, so the focus is dead on.

Lets see how it goes…

Before I get to the pictures I have to say that Tallinn has been AMAZING! Such an awesome place to just walk and roam. I walked 8 miles yesterday, and a few hours today and enjoyed every second of it. From the cobblestone streets of Old Town to the even more scenic things we saw off the beaten path. Tallinn Estonia is full of life, great people and GREAT light!

The images below were converted from RAW using Adobe Camera Raw. You can see the full size file by clicking on the images (for those that have a full size file).


Leica M9 – f/2 – click image for full size RAW conversion

Fuji X100 – f/2 – click image for full size RAW conversion

Leica M9 – f/4 – click for full size image

Fuji X100 – f/4  – click for full size

Leica M9 – Click for FULL size image! I have to admit, I prefer the X100 version!

Fuji X100 – f2.8 – click image for full size

and the crops if you cant download the full file..

Leica M9 – f/2 – click image for full size

Fuji X100 – f/2 – Click image for full size (see the slight distortion)?

Lets stop it down….Leica M9 – f8 – click image for full size!

Fuji X100 – f/8

and some crops. You can see the M9 gets the prize for detail but at $1200 for the X100 and $10k for the M9, in the IQ department, the Fuji does quite well.

So what are your thoughts?

My thoughts are that the X100 is quite the little camera if shooting 35mm is your thing! Sure, the M9 is better but is it $8800 better in regards to Image Quality alone? NO it is not. Add to this that the high ISO is better on the X100 and this makes the X100 the buy of the freaking year in digital camera land.

My M9 is not going anywhere though :)

A Fun Test – Can you tell which image came from which camera?

The EXIF info is intact so you can cheat, and I am not doing this as any sort of contest but look over the following images and see if you can tell which came from which camera. When sized down (you can click them for a larger 1400 pixel wide version) it gets tougher to  see the differences.

My quick thoughts on the IMAGE QUALITY ONLY of the M9/35 and X100..

  • M9 files are bigger, more megapixels at 18 vs 12
  • M9 files will be somewhat smoother and noise free at full 100% view
  • Metering seems spot on with the X100 due to its three metering modes
  • White Balance is better on the X100, no question
  • M9 files can be sharper if focus is nailed
  • X100 has some distortion, 35 cron doesn’t really have any!

Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments below! If you are looking to buy an X100, you can try HERE or HERE. The M9 can be found HERE, HERE or through Ken Hansen at [email protected]!


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 :)

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Jun 142011

A Photo Stroll in Tallinn Estonia with the X100 and M9

By Steve Huff

What a crazy last couple of days..

I am now in Tallinn Estonia! I survived 26 hours of airports and air travel and then woke up this morning at 4 AM to head out and shoot in this lovely town. I flew out here to Europe to document Seals Summer  tour and between shows I plan on shooting some personal street stuff as well. The sights, the sounds, the buildings, and the people…wherever I go!

As we walked the streets at 4:30 AM it was quiet, peaceful and LIGHT. Odd because the night before I noticed it was still light out at 11PM at night when I woke up for a bit. Pretty crazy when you are so used to the sun going down by 6 or 7.

But Tallinn is a beautiful place full of photo opportunities and I am hoping to shoot a bit more here before we leave. I just wanted to post and share some shots I snapped with the Leica M9 and 35 Cron as well as the little Fuji X100, which did fantastic!

Enjoy! Click any image for larger and better version, and I will be posting more later. Thanks for looking!

This one was snapped with the X100 wide open.

Fuji X100 – f/4 – JPEG

Fuji X100 – f/4

Leica M9 and 35 Summicron at f/2.8

Leica M9 and 35 Summicron

M9 and 35 cron

Fuji X100

Leica M9 and 35 Summicron

Fuji X100

Fuji X100, F/2

Leica M9 and Noctilux at f/0.95

Leica M9 and Noctilux at f/0/95

Fuji X100

Fuji X100


Jun 132011

Today I welcome a new site sponsor, NOKTOR! Just recently SLR Magic has resurrected the Noktor brand and has re-released the 50 f/0.95 for the Micro 4/3 mount as well as the Sony NEX E-Mount! SLR Magic and Noktor have some exciting things planned for  the near future so be sure to keep a lookout for the reviews of ALL of their new products on this very website. Welcome Noktor/SLR Magic!

Jun 122011

USER REPORT: Leica Lumix Melange + Noctilux 0.95 vs. 1.0 Comparison on mFT

By Helge Hackbarth

The exceptional picture composing options of bright prime lenses make them desireble especially for the MicroFourThirds camera system. 3D-Kraft demonstrates how a bright standard lens transforms into a fantastic portrait focal length and compares the qualities of the Leica Noctilux-M 1:0.95 / 50mm with its predecessor, the Noctilux-M 1:1.0 / 50mm.

The recent success story of the mirror-less, and thus relatively compact Micro Four Thirds (mFT) camera system was pushed forward also by the fact that quite quickly the usual focal lengths from wide angle to telephoto were covered with compact and high quality lenses from Olympus and Panasonic. Even attractive ultra wide-angle and super telephoto zoom lenses are available meanwhile. However bright prime lenses lacked for a long time.

The enormous demand for the – mostly sold – Voigtänder Nokton 25mm/0.95 shows the strong desire for such primes. It’s not just the high gain at low light, that many users require, but also the associated shallow depth of field (DOF) available for attractive image compositions. Because of the smaller camera sensor (crop factor 2 compared to a “full frame” sensor) the focal length required for a certain viewing angle halves as well but the ratio of focal length and full aperture diameter doubles for a comparably shallow depth of field. Thus a person to be portrayed in front of a background that should appear with a smooth and creamy bokeh requires focal lengths of about 35 to 50 mm and an open aperture starting at about f 1.0 to 1.4 which makes these lenses usually much more expensive.

Viewing angle / Crop of a FourThirds sensors compared to a “full frame” 35mm sensor at identical focal length.
(Image courtesy: Peter Lück, Camera-JPEG Leica Noctilux 1.0 with open aperture at Leica M9)

Fortunately, you are not forced to wait for the offering of such a lens segment in the MFT. The possibility to adapt almost any other lens system to Micro Four Thirds System cameras because of the mirror-less design was quickly recognized, so there are lots of appropriate adapters available meanwhile. Because of an only slightly different flange back distance of the Leica M system, lenses for cameras with the M-bayonet can also be used in the MFT system and they are – thanks to their high quality – even after many years coveted hunting objects in the second hand market. In general, they have no auto focus or lose this ability with other systems through the most purely mechanical adaptation. With some practice, manual focusing on such specialized lenses will be appreciated soon, because it allows for the sometimes only inches deep depth of field set more preciisely than with any automatic. Very useful here are electronic view finders (EVF) that can be easily activated and that allow 5x or 10x magnification.

When you enter the area of extremely large-aperture lenses, you will sooner or later come accross the Leica Noctilux 50mm/0.95, which is currently the world’s brightest aspheric lens. It appeared in 2008 and is the successor to the legendary “King of the Night”, the Leica Noctilux 50mm/1.0. It represents like not other Leica’s excellence to develop and manufacture such high-quality lenses. While the current 0.95er Noctilux is hard to get and because of its price tag of approximately 8000 EUR it is often beyond the budget. Its predecessor has better availability in the second hand market now and can be won around around 3500 to 4800 EUR – depending on age and condition. Of course there are some much cheaper alternatives, such as the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm/1.1 or the 50mm/1.2 Canon EF. They may be worth its price, but achieve balance with regard to sharpness, contrast and bokeh not on the level of a Leica Noctilux. So who is willing to invest such sums into a manual fixed focal length, will ask as the next question, if the additional expenditure for a new Leica Noctilux 50/0.95 against a 50/1.0 – in good condition – appears justified.

1st image: Leica Noctilux-M 1:1.0 / 50mm (E60 version with extensible, slightly square lens hood)
Bottom image: Leica Noctilux-M 1:0.95 / 50mm (with extensible lens hood))

A few facts first about the older Noctilux: It was manufactured in Canada since 1975, initially in a version with 58mm filter thread, and later as “E 60” with a 60mm filter thread. The hood changed its shape over the years as well. Was it at first round and screw-on, it was later fixed but extensible. The latest E60 version is already 6-bit coded, has a rather square, sliding hood with rounded corners that produces less shade to the viewfinder of a Leica M camera. The optics was based on the same calulation throughout the entire period but the antireflective coating is rumored to have changed over the years. The actual focal length of each item is measured in the final production step. The result is engraved in the housing using the following codes: 00 for 50mm, 01 for 51mm and 02 for 52mm.

The successor is a completely new development and is made since 2008 in the German Leica headquarters in Solms. It uses aspherical elements, as well as “floating elements”, is a bit bigger and heavier and has a shorter focus thread. Its vignetting on full frame sensors is less than its predecessor and it has a better sharpness in the edges.

…and which differences appear when attached to a mFT system camera?

The illustration of the crop factor relationship shown above also indicates the vignetting and slightly recognizable loss of edge sharpness of the Noctilux 1.0 at open aperture when attached to a full frame Leica M9. The red marked rectangle shows the crop that mFT a sensor actually use from the full frame image. It is well recognizable that the stronger vignettiing and the edge blur of a Noctilux 1.0 opposite a Noctilux 0.95 affect the image only within areas that are not covered by the mFT the sensor. With other words: MFT cuts only the “piece of filet” from the lense’s picture circle.
The Noctilux mounted to a micro Four Thirds camera results in an unusually balanced combination, but still appears “visually” balanced. If your camera is equipped with an electronic viewfinder providing magnification it is very helpful for precise focusing. The Noctilux 1.0 is said to have a certain focus shift on rangefinder cameras like the Leica M9, which was opimized ith the new 0.95er version. However – on cameras with electronic viewfinders this plays no role.


Leica Noctilux 50/1.0 adapted to a Panasonic Lumix GH2


Let us consider some comparative examples, all of which are viewable by clicking on it in full size
– First with open aperture:


Noctilux 1.0 at f1.0


Noctilux 0.95 at f0.95

Both images are comparable in terms of sharpness in the focal region. For portraits of this kind a certain softness and “glow” is OK and may be desired. Both lenses show at open aperture a tendency to color frings which ar not atypical for this light intensity. A typical difference between the old and the new Noctilux is already clearly visible: while the circles of confusion have the “bubble” shape that is characteristic for the Noctilux 1.0, the new aspherical corrected Noctilux draws the them clearly neutral.

Noctilux 1.0 at f1.0

Noctilux 0.95 at f0.95

In these examples you can see the smoother out-of-focus rendering in the background of the aspherical Noctilux below whereas above you see the typical circles of the older Noctilux.
The following two pictures show the image composition options in daylight and aperture f1.4. Due to the tremendous intensity here you usually will have to provide provided a gray filter (in the examples, an ND filter from B & W) for a darkening of three stops otherwise even at a shutter speed of 1/4000s you willl get over-exposed results.

Noctilux 1.0 at f1.4

Noctilux 0.95 at f1.4

Both lenses provide excellent sharpness at f1.4 already, but are also struggling with minor color frginging even at this dimming. At f1.4 the bokeh has hardly noticeable differences.


• With regard to sharpness and contrast both Noctilux generations are head to head in the crop area of a Four Thirds sensor.
• Both offer exceptional brightness and provide a unique visualization in the area of avialable light photography
• The aspherically corrected Noctilux has a slightly more neutral creamy bokeh at open aperture whereas the predecessor at f1.0 has its own “bubble” character. Who likes this more or less is substantially influenced by personal preferences. It is the balance between perfection and character.
• At open aperture center-weighted auto exposure tends for both lenses in a slight under-exposure, since the brightness decreases towards the edges. With the old Noctilux this effect is even more distinctive and should be taken into account in setting the camera by a slight increase in exposure.
• In the operation of the old Noctilux focussing is slower but may be easier to adjust accurately. In my tests, the rate of correctly focused images with the old Noctilux was slightly higher. For video applications the shorter focus trasnlation might be helpful.
The following series illustrates the development of the circles of confusion across different aperture settings at the older Noctilux 1.0.

At f1.4 you see already nearly circular lights, at f1.0 the rings turn into bubbles.

Concluding several other examples that show the character and composing options of such an extraordinary lens.



(f1.4, ISO 800 – here some candles were the dominating light sources)







Leica on Lumix (me shot with the Noctilux 1.0 attached to a Leica M9 by “Dierk”)

For further examples please follow this this link.

Jun 092011


The Leica M9 Hammertone Special Edition?

This has been a week of new cameras leaking out on to the internet and some new camera announcements. So what’s new? How about more Leica M9-P stuff? Well, the image above is a shot of a supposed M9 Hammertone special edition that will come with a 28 2.8 Elmarit in chrome with a hammertone lens hood. This is supposedly going on sale for $15,000 in a strict limited edition of  100 sets, in Japan. It will sell out no problem with that number. As for the M9-P…my guess is that it will look just like this, but in chrome and black paint finishes :) The M9-P of course would not be a limited edition and supposedly will come in $700 more expensive than the standard M9, sapphire glass included. :)


The Sony NEX-C3 – It’s official!

It’s small, it’s cute and it does everything the NEX-3 did and more. The only problem is that Sony made it even smaller, and this may make it harder to hold comfortably. I have not seen or held one yet and I do like the silver top and black body combo but it’s starting to look more and more like a point and shoot. I really do not see anything in the C3 that would make me want it over the NEX-3 or 5 because there will be a new firmware update soon that will allow the 3 and 5 to use the same special effect filters as the new C3. Sony has a way of making a statement product like a NEX-5 and then sort of killing it with future releases. They did this in the Audio world years ago with their high end line (anyone remember the SCD-1)?

The NEX-C3 has higher megapixel count (which is not always a good thing) of 16.2 and Sony can once again claim they have the smallest interchangeable APS-C size sensor camera in the world. Maybe that was their goal.

“Building on the success of last year’s α NEX launch, the new NEX-C3 model takes the idea of ‘small camera body, SLR-quality photos’ to a whole new level,” said Kristen Elder, director of the alpha digital imaging business at Sony.  “This camera’s brand new, large CMOS sensor and user-friendly interface will allow all photographers, regardless of experience level, to produce unique, custom-styled photographs. The NEX-C3 is a perfect combination of design, performance and creativity that fits a wide range of activities and shooting styles.”

also seems like the NEX line is getting more consumer friendly…

“The intuitive new Photo Creativity interface on the NEX-C3 camera puts sophisticated controls within easy reach, whether users are shooting stills or HD Video.   Technical terms like ‘aperture’, ‘exposure value’ and ‘white balance’ are replaced with the friendlier and more intuitive ‘background defocus’, ‘brightness’ and ‘color’, allowing users to easily create custom-styled photographs. A traditional interface with Aperture/Shutter Priority, Manual and custom functions is always available for experienced users, along with highly customizable soft-keys for programming direct access to important controls.”

Again, the new firmware will basically give the same functionality to your 3 or 5, so I wouldn’t run out and sell your 3 or 5 to buy a 3C, unless the photo quality ends up being better, which is possible (but unlikely). Sony is also releasing a 30 3.5 macro lens around the same time as the camera.

A new Ricoh digital hits the Internets!

Ricoh Introduces the PX Series,
Water- and Dust-Resistant Digital Cameras
for Day-to-Day Photography, Outdoor Use, and Everything in Between

June 9, 2011?TOKYO, Japan?Ricoh Co., Ltd. (helmed by president and CEO
Shiro Kondo) today announced the release of the new PX compact digital
camera. The new design offers 5.0×, wide-angle (28 mm) and telephoto (140
mm) optical zoom in a water- and shock-resistant package that can safely be
used for hassle-free photography in a wide variety of locations and

Designed for hassle-free operation, the new RICOH PX lets users take
photographs anytime, anywhere with fast startup and settings that adapt to
subjects for optimal results. Its high-resolution, 16-million?pixel CCD
sensor and Smooth Imaging Engine IV image processing engine combine for
high-resolution, high-quality photographs.

The new, fully flat design give the new RICOH PX, ease-of-use and
portability, results in a camera that is easy to carry, while the optional
protective jacket appeals to users with a choice of color schemes that can
be matched to the camera body.

While it exhibits the traditional dedication to image quality that has been
the foundation of all RI-COH digital camera designs to date, the newly
released RICOH PX is also a compact digital camera that promises fun,
hassle-free photography. It is also dedicated to image quality that has
been the foundation of all RICOH digital camera designs to date.

Principal Features of the New RICOH PX Compact Digital Camera
1.    Designed for peace of mind and hassle-free use, anywhere, anytime;
fully dust-, water-, and shock-resistant
The RICOH PX has a JIS/IEC protection rating equivalent to IP68. It
can be used underwater for 60 minutes at a depth of 3 meters. Dirt
can be washed off, allowing users to safely take pictures anywhere
without worrying about rain, splashes from the kitchen, or dirt or
soil from the garden. Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with being
able to use your camera anytime, anywhere, including for shots of
water sports, hiking, and other outdoor scenes.
Thanks to its impact-resistant design, the camera can withstand
being dropped from heights of 1.5 meters.
The camera features a 2.7-inch, 230k-dot high-contrast LCD monitor
with a wide viewing an-gle. It also boasts an anti-fingerprint
protection coating that protects from scratches, and an
anti-reflective coating which ensures that the monitor can still be
viewed under bright outdoor lighting.
2.    Never miss another shot?whip out the RICOH PX and snap a photo
anytime, hassle-free
Whether it’s a spur-of-the-moment snapshot or a carefully framed
picture, the RICOH PX can automatically optimize settings to suit
the subject, allowing even users who are unfamiliar with the camera
to take photos quickly and easily.
A fast startup time of about 1.4 seconds ensures you’ll never miss
another shot.
Subject-tracking AF” is standard on all models for shots that are
always in focus even if the subject is in motion.
The fully-flat design eliminates projections to emphasize
portability for a camera that can be slipped into a pocket and used
almost anywhere. By placing the lens in the center of the camera
body, RICOH has ensured that shots won’t be blocked by stray
fingers even when the camera is held in both hands.
The intuitive controls include a lever-style flash dial that allows
user to determine whether the flash is on or off, and a movie
button that starts movie recording directly with a single press.
3.    A 16-million?pixel, high-resolution CCD sensor for high-resolution
The 16-million?pixel, high-resolution CCD sensor ensures
high-quality results not only when pictures are enlarged, but also
when they are cropped or resized for digital zoom.
The Smooth Imaging Engine IV image processing engine produces
noise-free images even in shots taken at high sensitivities under
low light.
Image-sensor?shift image stabilization reduces blur at high zoom
ratios and in pictures taken at night or indoors under low light.
4.    28?140 mm, 5× optical zoom with super resolution (SR) zoom equivalent
to 10× optical zoom
The RICOH PX offers 5× optical zoom for focal lengths of 28 mm
(wide) to 140 mm (tele-photo).
With super resolution technology, the camera supports SR zoom
equivalent to a focal length of 280 mm with almost no drop in image
quality. Telephoto photography at zoom ratios equivalent to up to
1,344 mm (280 mm × 4.8) are available with digital zoom.
5.    Premium shot modes enhance the photographic experience
Settings can be optimized for even the most difficult subjects
simply by choosing the scene with the premium button.
A display with easy-to-understand explanations guides users to the
scene they want.
Premium shot modes and custom modes are available for up to 28
scenes (including custom modes).
A wide selection of premium shot modes is available, including
“Cooking” and “Sweets” for delicious looking shots of food, an
“Auction” mode for shots of objects being sold at auction, “Beach”
and “Snow” modes that utilize the camera’s water resistance,
“Party”, “Hand-held night scene”, and “Miniaturize”, “Toy camera”,
and “Soft focus” filter effects.
Photographers can select up to five of their favorite premium modes
for easy recall.
6.    Playback options for easy viewing
By using the camera’s “Favorites” feature users can rate picture
with the camera’s choice of three rating levels.
The “privacy” option can be used to hide selected pictures during
Use “calendar playback” to find pictures by date.
7.    A full range of convenient options to enhance the user experience
The RICOH PX comes with a slip-proof protective jacket(available in
five colors to match the camera body ) to protect it from shocks
and scratches.
The “Two-way” straps that function as both hand- or neck-straps are
also available in five colors.
8.    Many other features add fun to your photos
The RICOH PX supports X2-series Eye-Fi SD memory cards with a
built-in wireless LAN feature that can be used to automatically
upload photos to a computer or photo-sharing ser-vice.
Users can shoot HD movies with a frame size of 1280 × 720 pixels.
An HDMI cable (avail-able separately) can be used to connect the
camera to an HDTV for high-quality display of movies and photos.
The RICOH PX comes with rechargeable battery that uses a USB
connection. The USB power adapter can be plugged into a household
power outlet or the battery can be recharged when the camera is
connected to a computer via the supplied USB cable.

Jun 092011

Why shooting with just a 35mm lens WILL improve your photography.

By Steve Huff

I originally wrote this article to end my Fuji X100 camera review but decided to expand on it and publish it on its own. When the X100 and even the Leica X1 were announced and released, many people were complaining that it did not have a Zoom lens, or have the capability of adding another lens. I heard things like “Who wants a fixed 35mm lens” and “These cameras are useless with just a 35”.

To me, this kind of thinking is borderline nonsense as the 35mm focal length is one of the most useful, if not THE most useful focal lengths you can use! I truly believe that if you shoot with just a 35mm focal length for at least 6 months your photography will improve and so will your knowledge of composition, reading light, and even your “vision” will improve. By that I mean, the way you see things in relation to photography.

Yes, It’s true. You can not add a zoom lens to cameras like the X100 or Leica X1 nor do they have a built in zoom lens. When you invest in these types of cameras, you are investing in a 35mm camera. Just like the old days with the classic fixed lens film cameras. But I see this as a good thing and is why I also adore the Leica X1 and X100 and even a Leica M9 with a simple 35mm lens attached.

For me, it’s all about simplicity and knowing what to expect from the camera. After a couple of weeks shooting with just your camera and one 35mm lens you will start to be able to visualize in your head what your image will look like, way before you even shoot it. When I go out and spot a scene I want to photograph, I instantly envision in my head what the image will look like. I can visualize what it would look like at f/2 or f/8, I  can see how I want it framed and what my final image will look like, even with processing! I see all of this before I take the shot. I can do this because I have been shooting with prime lenses only for so many years, and the 35 has been one of the main focal lengths I use along with my 50mm.

Some Images using only the 35mm focal length.

The house below was shot with a Leica M9 and 35 Summarit, which is a GREAT lens for this type of photo. It’s funny because the Summarit has better Bokeh than the 35 Summicron ASPH, and is about half the price and a smaller lens! True!

If you click on the house image below, you can see the quality of the lens better as the detail is also there.

The image below of the old (and what I thought was an abandoned) motorhome is one of my favorites of recent times. I remember driving down a rural road and I spotted this “scene” from the corner of my eye. I immediately turned around and pulled up to this dirty, worn down, flat tired motor home. Right when I stepped out of my car I knew exactly what angle I wanted because of the tarp that was flowing towards my lens. I knew this would look amazing in black and white and when I processed the image, it was exactly what I had hoped for.

It was shot with the Leica M9 and 35 Summicron ASPH lens.

For at least a year I traveled around with my M9 and 35mm taking photos of old buildings and abandoned places. It was almost an obsession of mine, finding these long forgotten houses, shops, cars..and even gas stations. For this project, the 35mm focal length was my most valued and used lens. A 28 was always a bit too wide, and the 50 was a bit too long.

This old service station was captured deep in the mountains of Kentucky, once again with the Leica 35 Summarit. For full detail and color, click on the image.

So OK, so far all I have shown you is old buildings and a motorhome, which are all perfect subjects for a 35. What about people? Sometimes with a 35mm, if you get too close to someone they can appear distorted, but not always. I find the 35mm focal length great for portraits IF you want to include the surroundings as well, and IMO, this makes for a much nicer “portrait”. A few years ago I started finding the typical 85mm portrait “heads” somewhat boring. I like to see more of what is going on in the surroundings…the persons “environment”, which is why you have probably heard the term “Environmental Portrait” before.

In my opinion, the 35mm focal length can produce more interesting portraits than a 50, 75 or 90 IMO. Why? Because you see the environment along with the person. You see what is going on in the scene which I find much more interesting than just a plain head shot most of the time.

Below is a fire breather who was walking the streets of Vegas and anytime someone gave him a dollar or two he would breath fire on the street, stopping traffic an all. With the M9 and 35 Summilux ASPH II, this shot was easy, and i love it!

The next shot of my son Brandon was taken over a year ago with the M9 and 35 Summarit. We were sitting down to eat and I wanted to get a picture of him browsing the menu but instead he looked up at me with the “are you taking a picture AGAIN!” look. Added a Sepia tone in Color Efex which looks better when you click on the image. This shot, when viewed at the larger size, reminds me of how great this little Summarit is. A little bit classic, a little bit modern, and the lowest price Leica 35.

Even the little Olympus E-PL1 with the 17mm pancake attached is just about equal to a 35mm foal length (34) and here is another portrait I shot with that exact combo! I really like this one as you see the environment in which the Auctioneer works. This was at an auction on a hot sweaty summer day and he was standing in the back of his truck from where he auctioned off a house and belongings. It was in Illinois and probably close to 100 degrees on that day. IT WAS HOT and HUMID.

When I shot the last Seal tour I also experimented with the 35 and really loved what I managed to capture with it. Shooting concerts with a 35mm lens sounds odd doesn’t it? Seems like it would be much too short, but with a performer such as Seal, using a 35mm is ESSENTIAL as there is so much audience participation going on. Once again, getting the subject and his surroundings is key to a really great photo. This one is with the M9 and 35 Summicron ASPH.

Using the Leica X1 which has just about a 35mm equivalent lens…

Here is one more “Environmental Portrait” I shot a year ago with the M9 and 35 Summilux ASPH II. You can see that this guy is a street performer. It tells more of a story than just a headshot would.

So as you can see, the 35mm focal length is very useful and versatile. In fact, after always going back and forth over which focal length I prefer between a 35 and 50, I always go back to the 35. It just seems natural.

After shooting a camera and one lens like a 35mm for at least 6 months you will know what angle to get, where to stand and you will get out of the “Zoom Lens” mindset, which IMO, makes you lazy. There, I said it and I mean it! Zoom lenses make you lazy. Sure it is nice to have that huge and pricey 70-200 because when you are roaming around the Zoo that is what everyone else has with them, and I used to be guilty of the same thing many years ago. Once I started shooting with a 35 and 50 my whole outlook changed and I realized that 95% of my shots taken with a zoom lens…sucked!

These days when I look back at my “zoom” shots they look flat and lifeless and it LOOKS like I zoomed in on my subject. But sometimes there will be a subject that is farther away and without a Zoom you can’t get close. Maybe you can not walk up to your subject to get closer. When this happens, I change my whole approach to the shot. Instead of worrying about the subject I look around and see what I can capture within the shot WITH the subject, and this usually makes it much more interesting.

Now of course, sports shooters and wildlife guys need powerful zooms (or primes) but for most of us, including the hobbyists, it could be a great experience to just shoot with one lens and one lens only for a while, and believe me, it will improve your photography.

I could get by day to day with either a 35 or a 50. My favorite lens in the world is actually a 50, but not for its focal length. The Leica Noctilux for its gorgeous rendering. Right behind that the new 35 Summilux ASPH. I have shot with a 35 for months on end, and did the same with a 50. Did my photography suffer because of it? NO, in fact, it had the opposite effect. It IMPROVED it.

My wrap up…

Shooting ONLY a 35mm lens for say, 3-6 months, will open up your mind to other possibilities. You will not just aim, zoom and shoot but you will look around, think and ask yourself how you can get the best shot with what you have. Shooting at 35mm seems natural. You can get great environmental portraits and even normal portraits if you step back a bit. 35mm is great for landscape and urban shots. It kind of sucks you in to the image at times and is not too wide like a 24 or 28 might be, nor is it too constricted like a 50 can be in some situations.

In many ways, in my opinion, the 35mm focal length is the perfect focal length for shooting life as it happens. The things around you, the people around you, and the daily grind in general. If you have the chance, put a 35mm (equivalent) on whatever camera you own and shoot it for a few weeks. ONLY using that lens. My guess is that by the end of the few weeks you will have some amazing keepers, and you will also have learned a bit more about composition. You will also have a liberated feeling as the stress of “what lens should I use” will be gone. Just you and your 35…pretty cool.



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