Dec 242010
 

It’s Christmas Eve and it’s that time of year that makes me smile. I will be taking the next two days off from posting but wanted to post some fun Friday links for the weekend anyway :) I wish everyone a GREAT Christmas. If any of you end up with some cool photo gear for Xmas, take a pic of it and send it over to me. Would be cool to make a post out of it. Anyway, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

BTW, next week I hope to publish my Pentax K5 review along with a cool comparison between the NEX-5 and Leica M8 with a Leica 50 Summarit and 90 Summarit. Many people ask me…should I buy an M8 or a NEX-5 and adapter? I can state now that there is a substantial quality difference between the two when using the same lens. Which one wins? Find out next week :)

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Something silly I posted last year :)

T’was the night before Christmas, camera gear on your mind.

A Leica nut, you were hoping for a shiny M9.

The wife in her checkbook, and that look on your face,

Just hoping she won’t notice that lens you bought at B&H.

When from outside the door, there arose such a sound,

you sprang from your seat to see if FedEx was around!

You opened the door, with cheer and with glee,

Oh Joy! It’s your neighbor’s dog and she’s squatting to pee!

Oh M9, Oh M9, won’t you come here to me?

It’s all I will need, ever, oh dear can’t you see?

When what to your wondering eyes should appear?

Your wife with a smile as you gulp down your beer.

She hands you a box, oh what could it be?

The M9 or new Noctilux, well who knows? Lets See!

“It’s just what you hoped for,” she says by the tree.

The tingles then start, from your head to your feet.

You give it a shake, thoughts go through your brain…

“Hmmm, yes!! This could be it!” you boldly proclaim!

As you open the box, you are filled with delight!

Your wife, kids, and dog watch…oh what a sight!

You pull out the gift through the peanuts and fluff,

What the hell? The new Vivitar your wife saw on Steve Huff!

“Is that the M9 you wanted, oh dear husband of mine”?

“I saw it online, what a deal, what a find!”

You look at her with love and say, “Why yes dear, it is!”

A hug and a kiss and she’s soon filled with bliss!

You pull out her gift with a smile on your face,

You were no fool, your backup plan was in place!

Her face is confused when she sees what’s inside.

My oh my, its a brand new Leica M9!

*Links*

Powerful Short Film Captures the Toll of Wartime Photojournalism

For those who have requested some info/review on the Olympus E-5, this guy did a write up with some samples :)

Speaking of Christmas, I hear LeicaImages.com is having a contest and giving away an X1! Wow.

Don’t forget about the contest here to win the cool Timbuk2 all weather camera bag. Submit your winter/holiday images!

A 5 year journey with Apple Aperture

Amy Medina made a VERY cool video with the Olympus E-P2 and the old (but fantastic) Leica 50 Summitar lens

Cool image – A window on the past…

Some street photography with the Sony NEX-5

An amazing collection.archive of old photos by Nick DeWolf..

KILLER Rainbow photo!

USED DEAL – A TITANIUM Leica M7 and 50 Lux ASPH for $7999 at photo village!

A genius idea! The C-Loop!

What is one of Oprah’s favorite things? It’s a camera but guess which one? Would not have been my pick!

Make your own $7 Beauty Dish

Dec 222010
 

It’s Not the Photographer, It’s the Camera Stupid!

The M9 Titanium Arrives. By ~6


So how many times have you heard the reverse of that phrase before in some variation or other. You show some of your pictures to someone who isn’t obsessed with photography… a normal human being (yes they do exist) when they ask you “what camera did yo take that with?”

Of course we all know that this sentiment is perhaps the most false assumption in the whole art form but we decline from trying to explain because well…it’s just complicated and for the most part unnecessary and so the to the short and sweet answer “oh, a Leica!”

But if let’s say we at least allow ourselves to believe that the choice of said tool does have some baring on how we at least go about framing our chosen subject and stopping time, then the following pictures would suggest that at last, I’m going to fulfill my dream of becoming the long lost son of Henri Cartier Bresson himself or maybe perhaps there’s still time at the age of 47 to surpass the complete life works of both Avedon and HCB in terms of content and quantity. Yes! Money has finally bought me talent, all I need now is the titanium beret to match (I wonder if Stefren at Leica will make me a special addition with ~6 where the red dot would normally go, hmmm….).

Santa came early this morning with something I didn’t really believe I would get until I saw it with my own eyes. I just didn’t think they’d be able to fulfill the orders when they said they would but every now and then our friends in Sölms do surprise us. I opened the box to find what can only be described as ‘a work of art’ in every sense. As soon as I was told about this latest special edition about a year ago I placed my order for the first one. I chose 500/500 because it’s the last one that will ever be made and because well, I couldn’t get 001! How selfish of them, little things like that can completely affect my HCB quest, somehow my pictures are not going to be quite as good now.

There will no doubt be those among us who will think that luxuries such as these are a waste of money, irresponsible spending given the current economical climate or “only for idiots that have more money than brains” (well the ‘brains’ bit is true at least). I can hear the dulcet echoes of “you could buy five 1D4’s for that or thirty GF1/Sh*telander Combos (sorry, just couldn’t resist)…only an idiot would spend that kind of money on a blah, blah….”.

Enter, THE JOYFUL IDIOT.

I became a collector ever since the first time I set eyes on a Leica. I was at a candle lit dinner party where a movie director friend of mine was framing in virtual darkness without anyone noticing. I asked him how it was possible in such light without a flash, the next day I walked into a store and bought that exact combination, an M6 with a 50 Noctilux. That was eighteen years ago but then I made the fatal mistake of selling my entire camera collection about seven years ago to a rental place in New York around the time I first met my wife, I practically gave it all away having discovered my first pro digital camera, the Canon 1Ds (what a tool and I don’t mean the camera).

But then I started collecting again soon afterwards and in one of the pictures here you can see another of most treasured pieces, the ‘M7 Titan Three Lens Set’ of which there are only fifty in existence. The first one went to Sabastiao Salgado (another photographer I’ll soon be surpassing with my new M9 Titan, nope he’s got nothing on me mate) and because I was convinced I’d found the Holy Grail of cameras in the the Canon DSLR, I missed the ’50 Jahre Set’ when they were first released. So it took me a couple of years searching and a lot of help from the two Steffen’s at Leica to find this one without paying too much of a premium because you would have to find someone selling the entire three lens kit as all fifty are numbered by year to their respective lenses, mine bares the year 1970. Luckily it’s worth considerably more than what it was first sold for and that’s IF you can find one of the fifty people willing to part with theirs.

But for those interested, what does laying out the cash for this absolute necessetty buy you that’s different from a normal M9?

Well, it’s just so tough to explain without sounding like a quack, (a title that I will wholly admit to and my wife has no problem calling me). The only way that I can describe it, is by simply saying that it is without doubt or question the single most beautiful camera I have EVER laid eyes on or had the good fortune of owning …..period!

I hope you enjoy these pictures, I feel very fortunate to not only be the first person to receive this special gift (apparently) but also to be healthy enough to enjoy using it to frame the memories of my beautiful family…. life just doesn’t get any better.

Thank you Steffen K and a big thank you to you Steve for being my friend and indulging me here. Merry Xmas to all of you.

~6

Dec 212010
 

Steve,

I have been a fan of your site for the past few months and read everything you have written about the Leica M9. I have my big EOS1ds bodies but I find my self not wanting to drag them around, the things are beasts. I wanted a camera that had the IQ of my DSLR but portable. I tried various point-n-shoot cameras but was never happy with any of them. I finally broke down and purchased a M9 along with a couple of lenses. The 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit and the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.1. I would have loved one of the Summilux lenses but a little out of my price range. I went out to a local factory that is in ruins and shot a few frames. I absolutely love the Voigtlander lens it’s tack sharp even wide open and the out of focus areas are just “dreamy”. The image quality I get out of this camera is as good as if not better than my 1ds and it fits in a tiny camera bag and doesn’t make my arm and shoulder go numb from the weight. I have included a few images from my recent outing. I also have a photoblog www.mindlesspixels.com that I update as often as I can. I can see me updating it quite often now that I have a camera I can and love to carry around.

Thanks,

Ramsey Railsback

I know I was supposed to send only three images but this camera takes such great pictures I couldn’t choose.

Dec 212010
 

KEEP SENDING IN YOUR SUBMISSIONS! EMAIL THEM TO ME HERE!

It’s contest time! I have a new Timbuk2 Snoop all weather camera bag here in RED and GREY  (thanks to Amy at thegearcaster.com) and I am giving it away to one lucky reader. How do you become this lucky reader? EASY! Seeing that the Holidays are here and Christmas is around the corner I am looking for some GREAT seasonal images to share on this site on New Years Day. What better way than to have all of you submit your faves so I can post them here?

I currently live in Phoenix, AZ and it is always warm and  in the 70’s and it just does NOT feel like Christmas! I need some cheer sent my way so I am hoping to see some beautiful photos with snow, lights, and ANYTHING that tells me IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME!

So send me your images to me directly by emailing me HERE. Out of all entries there will be 10-15 top picks made and then starting on New Years Day you guys can pick the winner by voting in a poll. The top 15 picks will be made by myself and Ashwin Rao (who you should all know from his great guest articles).  Then, starting January 1st all of you guys will VOTE for the winner! Here are the rules…

RULES:

  • ONE ENTRY PER PERSON! DO NOT SEND MORE THAN ONE PHOTO.
  • Must be under 3 MB and no bigger than 2000 pixels wide when you send the image.
  • Post Processing is allowed but no enhancements. In other words, do not add anything to the photo that wasn’t there when you shot it.
  • Must be Holiday themed, so Christmas/New Year themes only.
  • Submissions start today 12/21/10 and the last submission will be accepted on 12/29/10
  • The top 10 will be displayed on this website on New Years Day, Jan 1st 2011 and voting will begin.
  • Voting will end on January 15th 2011 and the person with the most votes will win the bag. Bag will be shipped within 3 days of contest end.
  • This is a WORLDWIDE contest. Anyone, from ANYWHERE can enter.

You can read more on the Timnuk2 SNOOP in this review HERE. Again, thanks to THEGEARCASTER.COM for supplying the bag!

I am accepting images NOW so e-mail them to me HERE!

Dec 202010
 

Christmas is just days away and some of you have e-mailed me asking where you can find a Leica M9 ASAP. I have placed direct links below to the shops I use and promote for Leica gear. It appears you can find a black right now at Amazon through Adorama. B&H is sold out at the time of this writing and Dale has a Grey in stock. Ken Hansen may have black and grey so be sure to e-mail him for availability! They seem to be selling fast for the holidays!

Ho Ho Ho! Looking for a Leica M9 by Christmas? Below are my recommended dealers who may or may not have one in stock…

B&H Photo – Black M9 or Grey M9

Amazon – Black M9 or Grey M9

Dale Photo – Black M9 or Grey M9

Ken Hansen – E-Mail him at [email protected] for availability.

Dec 202010
 

From Steve: Yet another cool Guest contribution! I have been down and out the last two days (sick) so these guest articles have been a huge help. By the end of the week I should have my Pentax K5 review up so stay tuned! Enjoy!

Using The Sony NEX-5 with Leica Lenses

By Paul Barclay

I have been following this site daily for the last several months and decided to buy the Sony NEX-5 camera with 16mm kit lens based on Steve’s Arizona State Fair photos and the links to other images made using Leica lenses. Once I received both the camera and lens adapter, and had the battery charged, I set off to a boat dock near where I work to make a few images to see how things work and possibly get an image worthy of a daily inspiration. I knew going in that the Sony lens was not the sharpest, but I was not prepared for the disappointing results I got from my Zeiss and Leica lenses.

IMAGE #1 – Sony NEX-5 and the Zeiss 25 ZM Leica Mount lens

Image #2 – Sony NEX-5 and the Zeiss 25 ZM Leica Mount lens

Image #1 is one of these images and as you can see it is a little soft. I went back the next day because the light was better and I would have more time to put into focusing the camera. Looking at the second set of images, some of them were better but not all. Image #2 was also taken using my Zeiss 25mm f2.8 ZM lens. The first impression of this image is it is better than the images from the previous day, but when enlarged to 100% it is not as good as hoped for from a Zeiss lens. Because of these results I decided it was time to go into the studio (a.k.a. garage) and make the dreaded test target shots to try to find out what is going on. I won’t bore everyone with these images, but I did learn some things that may be helpful to anyone interested in a Sony NEX-5 camera with lenses from other manufacturers.

First, the tables below show that my Rainbow NEX-Leica lens adapter does not position all lenses at the correct position in front of the sensor. In my test shots I set the camera on a tripod at a fixed distance from the test target, measured the distance from the front lens element to the target then focused optically using the focus assist; I focused the Sony lens both using the camera and manually. For lenses with an actual focal length 50mm and wider it is necessary to focus closer than the actual distance to the subject, and this adjustment increases significantly as the lens gets wider. For lenses longer than 50mm the adjustment would be to focus farther than the actual distance, but this adjustment is so small it won’t be worth the effort. Since estimating the distance to a real subject won’t be that precise. It may be that the adaptor manufacturer decided that the ideal lens for most users is a 50mm lens or longer, or there may be some variation in the camera and adapter mounting distances working together. So it will be worthwhile for a wide-angle user to test their lenses on their camera to learn what adjustments are needed for their camera and adapter combination.

Image #3 showing the base of the Sony NEX-5

Image #4 – The Size of the Tripod Mount

Since I generally want to maximize image sharpness and I also use large format equipment, I prefer to use a tripod for most of my photography. Unfortunately, as image #3 shows, the base of the NEX-5 is not flat. It is “V” shaped where the lens mount meets the base with the portion holding the tripod socket extending below the rest of the base by about 1/8 inch. Due to how narrow the base is this gives us a flat surface to rest the camera on a tripod about the size of a dime. (image #4) Which means that if the camera is on a tripod it will be very easy to rotate the camera and change your image composition and not notice it. It also means that the camera can be very prone to vibrations from shutter bounce, which is possible since this camera is very lightweight and does have a noticeable “bump” when the shutter closes, opens, and closes again during an exposure. In this case I think it might be desirable to use the camera hand held unless a dedicated adapter plate is available from one of the specialty manufacturers. Even with a dedicated adapter plate it will probably be desirable to keep both hands on the camera body to dampen the vibrations.

Manual focus is a challenge with 50-year old eyes and wide-angle lenses, even on a tripod. This is caused by the low magnification from the lenses and the small size of the rear LCD screen. Add in bright light and the value of an LCD shade or accessory viewfinder (either an electronic finder or a finder that uses the rear LCD) becomes apparent. As expected, manual focus gets easier with longer lenses since magnification is increased. Now that I have a bit more practice, manual focus is almost easy provided that you can see the screen, your subject has a pattern that is easy to see, and you hold the camera steady enough. I have found it easier to hold the lens with my left hand over the top and my thumb under the lens, on the focus aid if the lens has one. This gets my left arm out of the way of the back of the camera and lets me hold the camera out far enough to see with my glasses. In addition, this lets you use your left hand to support the weight of the camera and focus using the camera’s first manual focus assist feature. When you have achieved focus, pressing the shutter release half way will reset the screen to normal so you can adjust the composition before making your exposure. So far, trying to use the exit button just causes me to move the camera and shift the focus on the lens. So doing anything to reduce your hand motions is a good thing.

Finally, there is good news to share from these experiences. First the Sony 16mm lens is better than it is given credit for. Its optical focus limit is probably close to 10-12 Ft, and the test images looked pretty good up to 50% enlargement; at 100% the lens is still a little soft. Though I do get better results viewing J-Peg images on a PC using the Windows viewer or using iPhoto09 on a Mac, rather than using the Sony software on a Mac; Capture One does not convert the NEX raw files yet. Second, as the remaining images show, using Leica, Zeiss, and Voightlander lenses will provide very good results once you have a chance to practice your focus and distance estimating techniques. Even when used handheld at ISO 800, which includes many of the images shown here.

Leica 35 Summicron and the NEX-5

Leica 35 Summicron and the NEX-5

Leica 50 Summilux Pre-ASPH and the NEX-5

Leica 135 f/3.4 and the Sony NEX-5

So, in conclusion, the NEX-5 is a worthy experiment at this time. But it will need some aftermarket accessories to be a worthy user with non-Sony lenses. Also, while I did try using this camera with my 90mm and 135 mm lenses on a tripod, their size and weight suggests that the camera mount may not hold up to much use with these lenses. So, using long lenses with an integral tripod collar, or making sure the lens adapter is supported by the tripod quick release plate is a good idea. If using these lenses handheld, using the lens to support the camera body will be necessary.

Paul Barclay

From Steve – Thanks Paul! For those that are interested there is a 3rd party tripod mount for the NEX-5 sold by one of our sponsors over at J-TEC online! Be sure to check it out.

Dec 192010
 

Hey guys! This Daily Inspiration was sent to me almost a YEAR ago on December 30th 2009. Yes, I have HUNDREDS of submissions that go back to a year ago and I was browsing some of the images and there are so many great shots that have been sent in to me over the past year! I thank all of you for the submissions and hope to see more in 2011. Anyway, enjoy this new-old set of images from Issa Ng! – Steve

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Dear Steve,

I am submiting 3 of my recent photo collections. My name is Issa Ng from Hong Kong.

Details of photos:

1st: Leica MP Hammertone with Noctilux E58 and Fujifilm Velvia 100 pushed to 200

2nd: Leica M3 with Noctilux E58 and Tmax P3200 pulled to 800

3rd: Leica MP hammertone with Summilux-M 35 ASPH and Rollei Retro100S

My flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/issa918/

Wish any of these photos will be qualified to your standard. :) BTW, love your site so much and check it out everyday!

Happy new year!

cheers,

issa

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Dec 172010
 

From Steve: I’ve been busy all week testing out the Pentax K5 with the 40mm 1.9 Limited lens but this week has been all about Guest Articles! So let’s keep it moving along with another from David Babsky, who if you remember wrote THIS controversial article a while back. What do you think of his new article? Feel free to comment and enjoy! You can also comment in the forums HERE.

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“Leica M9.5″ – The Small But Excellent Panasonic GF1 by David Babsky

Invited to the UK launch of the Panasonic AG-AF101 micro-four-thirds video camcorder (also known as the AG-AF100 in the USA) I thought I’d take a Four-Thirds-to-Micro-Four-Thirds lens adapter with me. This was so that I could use the Leica Digilux-3 lenses I had in my cupboard on this new camcorder. For good measure, I thought I’d take a Canon-to-micro-4/3 and a Leica-to-m4/3 adaptor, too, so that I could try Canon and Leica lenses on this new video camera.

To check out the Leica Digilux-3 lenses on a micro-4/3 stills camera before trying them on the camcorder, I hunted for a suitable camera: Olympus Pen? No; weird shape and slow autofocus. Panasonic micro-4/3 single-lens-reflex? No; too bulky. Panasonic GF1? ..Looks good, and with a reputation for very fast focus and excellent image quality ..and I’ve been using Pannys for a while, so I know where the buttons are and what they do.

Micro-four-thirds, of course, uses the same size sensor as the original ‘Four Thirds’ (Olympus, Panasonic and Leica) standard used in, for example, the ‘Leica’ Digilux-3 (which was really a Panasonic L1 by another name). It’s a sensor about a *quarter* the size of the Leica M9’s full-35mm-frame sensor, so it sees the view through only the central region of any full-frame lens. A normal 50mm lens becomes, effectively, a 100mm lens when used on a 4/3 – or micro-4/3 – sensor, but it keeps the same aperture settings. Although the Four Thirds (and micro-4/3) sensor is roughly a quarter the physical size of the Leica M9’s full-frame sensor, they currently have *two-thirds* the resolution of the M9, with – presently – 12 megapixels, compared with the M9’s 18 megapixels. So using just the central highest-resolution region of high resolution Leica prime (non-zoom) lenses, the 12 megapixel micro-4/3 GF1 may be able to out-resolve, or give ‘better’ results than, the 10 megapixel Leica M8 and M8.2 sensors, at least at low ISO settings – although any flaws in the central region of any lens will also be magnified by two. The m-4/3 sensor may give more digital “noise” at higher ISO settings than the Leicas, because each actual pixel ‘photo-site’ is smaller, and so captures less light at a given moment than the bigger sensors in the Leicas. So the ‘signal-to-noise’ ratio of the Leicas’ larger Kodak sensors may be more impressive than results with the smaller sensors in m-4/3 cameras. Panny 12 megapixel pictures can’t, for example, deliver as much enlargement as the 18 megapixel pics of the M9 before fuzzy or unsightly ‘pixellation’ sets in.

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The little micro-4/3 camera in the middle (the GF1, or ‘Leica M9.5′) and its one lens replaces the big 4/3 Leica Digilux-3 on on the left, and *almost* replaces the big Leica M9 on the right – and all those other lenses!

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The various m-4/3 lens adaptors have no glass inside: they’re just “extension tubes” to hold non-micro-4/3 lenses further from the sensor than the proper ‘designed-for-m-4/3′ lenses, so that lenses built for larger cameras with a greater lens-to-sensor ‘flange-back’ distance will focus correctly onto the m-4/3 chip. Panasonic’s own adaptor includes nine contacts to transmit power and info between Four-Thirds lenses and m-4/3 camera bodies so that the lenses’ electrical circuits (should) work properly. But as there’s no stabilisation, auto-focus or auto-aperture in Leica-M lenses, the Leica-M-to-m4/3 adaptor is just a metal tube with a precision mount on each end.

What a revelation! I’d bought a small second-hand Minolta CLE film camera to mount my Leica lenses on, as the M9 is just too heavy and too bulky to be a proper pocket camera ..for me, anyway. (Why is it BIGGER than the original Leica M3 of 1954?) ..But the Panny GF1 Leica-lens-plus-teeny-body combination is *exactly* what I’d been looking for! Leica has a partnership with Panasonic going back many years (the Leica Digilux cameras were Pannys in different livery, and the Leica V-Lux 20 is just the Panny TZ10 (its UK name) with a red dot on it). Leica should now grab the Panny GF1 – on its way to being phased out as the new GF2 is on its way – and should re-brand it as the Leica ‘M9.5′ (with a black dot on it, just like the M8.2) ..and that, I think, would be the perfect pocket camera, just as Oskar Barnack intended!

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Delicious patterns, textures and colours of Christmas fare: straight-out-of-camera jpegs from the GF1 (click for larger). Why no similar comparison shots taken with the M9..? Because the 56-year-old rangefinder mechanism of the current M9 can’t focus close enough to take these shots. The GF1, er ‘M9.5′, offers manual and auto focus – with anti-shake image stabilisation – for close-ups and small apertures at high or low ISO. The first image was shot at ISO 3200 ..not bad for a small sensor, eh? (The M9 won’t go above ISO 2500, without dialing-in some under-exposure.) (F) was shot at ISO 1600. All these were taken with the default Panasonic 14-45mm ‘kit’ lens.

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All the Leica lenses I’ve tried fit the GF1 – especially the wonderful Dual Range f/2 50mm which is unusable beyond 4 metres on the M9 (..or 2 metres on the M8 and M8.2..) because its focusing cam bangs against the digital M cameras’ metering cell! Doh! The exotic long-rear-end Russar 20mm doesn’t fit on the GF1, because its back end protrudes too far, but the less protrusive Voigtländer 21mm (and the Voigtländer 15mm and 12mm) will fit perfectly, and give brilliantly sharp shots!

These wide lenses don’t need extra external viewfinders on the GF1 – unlike using them on a Leica M – because What You See Is What You Get; the ‘live view’ screen on the back of the GF1 (..let’s call it the ‘Leica 9.5′ from now on..) shows exactly what each lens sees ..and a small clip-on electronic viewfinder is available if you can’t – or don’t want to – focus at arm’s length.

Focusing with older Lumix/Leica 4/3 lenses, which don’t auto-focus on the GF1 – or with any Lumix lens set to Manual Focus – will automatically give a magnified view on the camera’s focusing screen to help get the focus spot-on: connection pins in the 4/3-to-m4/3 adaptor tell the camera that focus is being manually adjusted. This doesn’t happen automatically with other lenses on a ‘dumb’ adaptor, like Leica, Canon or 35mm-film Olympus, as there are no connector pins on these adaptors to tell the camera what’s happening inside the lens. But by pushing IN on the over/under-exposure adjustment wheel on the back of the camera, focus-magnification’s turned on with ALL ‘dumb’ lenses!

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The M9’s redeeming feature is that it beats the GF1 in richness and depth of colour, in both day and at dusk, which the GF1 just can’t match – yet! Last one at ISO 2000.

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As focal lengths effectively double when used with 4/3 sensors – compared with full-35mm-frame sensors – the Leica f/2.8 14-50mm wide-aperture zoom from the old Digilux-3 becomes an f/2.8 28-90mm zoom on the GF1 (as it did on the old Digilux itself), and Panasonic’s Leica-branded f/3.5 14-150mm Digilux-3 lens behaves as a 28-300mm super-zoom. But those older 4/3 Digilux lenses are big and bulky compared with the newer miniature f/3.5 14-45mm and f/4 14-140mm lenses designed especially for the GF1 ..er, ‘Leica M9.5′ *micro*-four-thirds system. The Digilux-3 wide-aperture f/2.8 14-50mm would seem to have the edge over the new smaller-aperture f/4 14-45mm, but not so, because in-built stabilisation in the old lens doesn’t work when used on the ‘9.5’, but stabilisation in the new miniature lenses *does*, giving an extra two stops’ worth of non-shake shooting!

Fitting Leica’s f/2.5 75mm Summarit-M on the ‘9.5’ camera gives a small and pocketable f/2.5 140mm that’s a fraction of the size of the M9-plus-Leica’s-own f/2.8 135mm ..which needs a crane to hoist and hold it!

A Leica 24mm lens behaves like a 48mm, of course ..but using the Cosina-made Voigtländer *12mm* on the ‘9.5’ gives pretty much the same view as a 24mm on an M9. (The Panasonic 8mm – and 7-14mm zoom – will approximate to a similar view as Leica’s super-wide-angle ‘Tri-Elmar’ 16-21mm zoom at its widest setting, so all wide-angle boxes are ticked if you splash out on an 8mm.)

The Voigtländer 21mm gives – oddly – a far wider view than Panasonic’s own 20mm f/1.7 autofocus m-4/3 ‘pancake’ lens when used on the GF1; they should both be a 40mm equivalent, but I prefer the Cosina-Voigtländer for its wider angle of view and incredible sharpness – when correctly focused! (The small Panasonic lenses auto-focus of course, but Leica-M-fit lenses – obviously – can’t. You can manually focus with the Panny m4/3 lenses; but you can choose an aperture (in ‘A’ or ‘Manual’ mode) by turning a dial on the camera.)

Black-&-white results at 1600 ISO on the ‘9.5’ are nicely ‘grainy’ like venerable ISO 400 Tri-X film ..but needing only a quarter of the light which Tri-X needs! This GF1 is just *great* for hi-ISO black-&-white. Low-light colour shots, though, aren’t anywhere near as vibrant (..even though ‘Vibrant’ is selectable in its menus..) compared with pictures the M9 delivers at night (or the little Panasonic LX2 used to give).

I’d previously thought “why put a Leica full-frame lens on a tiny Four Thirds sensor? ..there’s less resolution, and you lose the wide-angle facility”.

But having tried it, I see advantages:

[a] the body – and body-&-lens combination – is FAR smaller and lighter than using a Leica M.

[b] the body-&-lens combination may, in some circumstances, out-perform the Leica M8.

[c] although you can’t use a Digilux zoom on a Leica M, you can use it on the ‘M9.5′. Same goes for defunct Leica R lenses.

[d] focal length doubles, so a Leica f/2.8 90mm becomes a very compact f/2.8 180mm, giving longer “reach” – and plenty of aperture – with a small lens.

[e] no ‘cyan corners’ using a Voigtländer 12mm on the ‘M9.5′: it’s a usable 24mm instead.

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Which is which? iPhone 4, 5 megapixels, 2.3MB, ISO 125, 3.9mm, f/2.8, 1/15th.

GF1, 12 megapixels, 12.9MB RAW, 5.6MB jpeg, ISO 200, 24mm, +1 stop exposure, f/1.4, 1/80th

M9, 18 megapixels, 36.4MB RAW, ISO 200, 50mm, +1 stop exposure, f/1.4, 1/60th

The short focal length of the iPhone, and its f/2.8 aperture, means that the whole picture’s sharp. The GF1, with a Leica f/1.4 24mm, gives less depth-of-field; the M9 and f/1.4 50mm gives even less d-o-f to isolate Steve the painter from the background. (There’s a 15x difference in price – and in file size! – between the iPhone and the M9 pics ..is there a 15x difference, though, in *visible* “image quality”?)

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I’ve, at last, found a generally ‘easy-to-use’ small, compact “all-rounder” to almost match the big, heavy Leica M9. Leica’s chairman Alfred Schopf should encourage a deal with Panasonic *right now!* to offer the GF1 as a mini ‘Leica M9.5′ because it takes Leica lenses – think how much more glass they’d sell! – it gives great results, they already rebrand Pannys as Leicas, and (some of) the world wants a pocketable Leica which takes interchangeable lenses – unlike the silly fixed-lens X1. (Or else put a Leica-M bayonet on the X1 ..though that leads us into the land of “one-and-a-half-times” focal lengths, with a 50mm becoming a 75mm instead of 100mm, and the X1’s focusing just isn’t as fast as the ‘M9.5′.) The Leica ‘M9.5′ would be a compact Leica “for the rest of us”.

The GF1, er ‘Leica M9.5′, is – obviously – the digital version of the Leica CL (the “Compact Leica”): it takes M lenses, gives great quality (RAW and jpeg), doubles the range of existing M lenses – so a 135mm becomes a 270mm ..a focal length unheard of on a Leica *rangefinder* camera – and it’s just the smallest, sweetest Leica ever made. Call it the “mini-M” if you like. And make an 8mm M lens to go with it. Make the call, Herr Schopf!

David Babsky was, many years ago, Technical Editor of the UK’s best-selling ‘Practical Photography’ magazine. Years later he bought, and ran, his own 3-screen cinema. Now he teaches photography, mainly in Greece and Thailand.

Dec 172010
 

Hi Steve,

I recently had a great time taking my M9 around China and Tibet. Here are three pics, each taken with a different lens. Hope they make the cut!

Keep up the great work. The full set of pictures is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/willstorr/sets/72157625419628937/

Many thanks,

Wil

Lens: Voigtlander f1.2 35mm Ap: f1.4 Shutter: 1/30 ISO: 160

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Lens: Summicron f2 35mm Ap: f2 Shutter: 1/80 ISO: 160
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Lens: Voigtlander f1.8 75mm Aperture: f1.8 Shutter: 1/2000 ISO: 160
Dec 162010
 

The guest articles keep on coming and this is AWESOME! I love seeing all of you guys contribute so we can ALL learn and grow from each others experiences. Those looking to send in articles, contact me using the contact button at the top of any page. Today, more wedding work with my favorite camera, the Leica M9 – by Tapas Maiti

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Shooting an Entire Wedding Season with a Leica M

By Tapas Maiti

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about my decision to transition to an exclusive use of Leica Rangefinders for wedding photography. I bravely ditched my DSLRs leaving me with my M8/M9s and my Hasselblad outfit.

I thought I ought to follow up with my experiences now that I have worked through a whole season. My problem is that I am a devoted Leica enthusiast but I’ve decided to write both from the perspective of a photographer and enthusiast but also from the colder viewpoint of running a business and delivering the goods on paid wedding shoots.

For those of you that want a quick summary here goes:

Yes I can shoot all parts of a wedding with a Leica M9, including dancing , speeches and so on but you do need to build a workflow around using it

The M9 delivers amazing quality and does really reduce the wear and tear on my back and create a client impact

The M9 is not operationally as good as an M7 or MP (more on that later)

The biggest problem of using M9’s isn’t the camera but it is the availability of products, building redundancy capability (which is why I now have a DSLR as an emergency back up)

Shooting weddings and my workflow

Firstly for me, shooting Rangefinders is an approach and a state of mind, you have to commit to it and for me at least, I find it very difficult to mix shooting Leica’s and DSLRs.

I also need to shoot rangefinders all the time to keep myself sharp and in the groove. I don’t see this as a criticism and I don’t really have time for people who claim to be professional but won’t put the time , effort and due diligence into their basis skills.

Conceptually, I do understand how the automation of DSLRs can be enticing BUT they can lock up, fail quite often as well we just tend to be more scared of relying on ourselves. I find that DSLRS can fail to focus or lock up with close moving dance scenes and during processions, that is reasonable and fair so not getting a perfect hit rate with a Leica is fair as well.

My workflow and approach has had to change though to adapt to three main factors:

You can’t change lenses that fast so I prefer to use two M9s

On camera flash is just unwieldy on the M9 so I tend to use available light or off camera flash with wireless triggers

The meter sucks, so I tend to use a hand held light meter (works better anyway)

Two cameras with a 35mm and 50/75mm work really well for me, I also have a 21mm Biogon in the bag. I sold my M8s and so that I could have two M9s and this works well. I can be mixing formats, filters etc in the middle of a wedding. I have also made sure that my key lenses are Leica lenses, again the whole manual lens selection is fine for stable environments or amateur use but not in a wedding and the M9 is more sensitive to getting things right.

If I lived in a place with nice weather , I would now be sorted and the whole Rangefinder simplicity thing would work really well but I don’t I live in the UK , suffer from low light levels and the peculiar desire of wedding venues to induce “mood lighting” otherwise known as “dark”

I am actually convinced that some venues own Nikon D3s just to test their light levels are low enough!

My first approach is fast lenses, I made sure I got one of the first 35 1.4 Asph II to come out but the second has been to work out flash techniques.

Now I will admit to having a Nikon D700 (more on that later) but the low light advantage is not as it seems, yes the Nikon does have amazing quality at 6400 BUT you need much higher shutter speeds to get sharp images whilst I can happily shoot the M9 at 1/15 or 1/30 second. I have also shot at a UK venue where 6,400 and 1.8 wasn’t enough so you do eventually run out of light !

It has taken me a while (and some money) to get to a situation I’m happy with and I still think there is some changes to make. On camera flash didn’t work , the SF24D is pointless, Vivitar 285 too big. I don’t want to try the SF58 – far too expensive and too big. I have however turned this to my advantage, I now use wireless flash.

– a trigger on each camera and one or two vivitar 285 on manual or

– profoto lights with profoto air triggers (more rarely)

This has been a blessing – manual flash is far more reliable than TTL and when shot off camera is just much nicer looking, the remotes are light and suit the M9.

The conflict is that we want to shoot Leica’s simply but I can’t not get good images because I won’t carry lights if needed. Again going back to my D700 example, I don’t see this as a weakness of the M9 because you are always going to run out of light at some point, the M9 (unlike the M8) has got a reasonable ceiling.

The key to making the above work is to spend enough money to get a reliable set up but have one set up, I tried e-bay triggers but they are not good enough, I may focus on using my profoto or get a Quadra so that I have a single reliable set up that I can use in every situation.

The M9 is not as good as the M7 / MP (operationally)

When considering the handling performance of the M9 it is just not fair to compare it to a D3 / 1D because it is conceptually different. It is fair to compare it to an analogue M though and I think it does come short:

You can manually crank and M7 at 2/3 frames a second for 36 frames

The M7/MP are quieter and feel more rugged

The M9 isn’t bad but it has a number of shortcomings that should be easily resolvable:

More processing power, the M9 doesn’t have the juice to properly power the camera

Better LCD, it has taken me a while to trust the higher iso because the screen is just bad, having said that I would prefer the images to be better than the screen rather than worse

Better battery performance or perhaps an add on small battery pack / grip

The feeling I get is that the M9 is just slightly under specified in terms of battery power and computer processing, not enough to want me to give it up but enough to sometimes frustrate.

The key to Rangefinders is directness and immediacy not frames per second or automation and we aren’t far off.

The final thing is “ruggedness” I think a future M10 should have environmental seals, the lenses won’t allow waterproofing but it would be nice if it were better than it is.

Redundancy and Availability

The absolute biggest problem for me this year is not the camera itself but availability of products to a professional’s timeline.

As an example, I have found that I need 4 batteries per camera to get through an Asian wedding with safety. I had to travel to Rotterdam to shoot a long wedding and knew I didn’t have enough batteries – but I couldn’t buy any, there was a backorder for thousands of batteries. I walked into my camera dealer and bough a second hand Nikon D700 and a couple of lenses and batteries (the only suitable camera available at the time). Bizarrely I now own a DSLR as cover for battery power ! Having the Nikon in the car as an emergency back up is no bad thing.

I put in an order for a chrome 50 1.4 Asph at the beginning of the year, it still hasn’t arrived and I have the Zeiss Sonnar and 75 F2 summicron instead.

Fortunately the M9 has now become a stock and demo item in the UK, I have the lenses I need and I have Zeiss back ups so I am all set now to cope.

As a business decision

The M9 is expensive and the lenses are expensive but this needs to be set in context. The M9 is no more expensive than a D3X, its high iso capabilities are about the same so it is in the same league as other top end cameras. The lenses are superb and made to last, once you have the kit you can use it for a very long time.

I can write the costs of the equipment off against tax and I have lenses such as the 35 1.4 and 75 F2 that cannot be improved upon. If I am still successfully making money from these lenses in 10 years then the costs will be justified.

I have spent a fortune on the continual upgrade cycle of DSLRs whilst my Hasselblad 501CM has given faithful service for 15 years with the small uplift of a digital back. My Blad and back are actually more cost effective than the DSLRs (over time) and hopefully the M9  will be as well, I certainly have no need of greater image quality.

The Leica’s also differentiate me, I have undertaken high end weddings with guests bring D3X, 5DII. I sit outside this , both in terms of the cameras I use and the approach they impose upon me.

My conclusion the Leica M9 still rocks

I have used a Leica virtually everyday for the last two years and it is slowly becoming instinctive and an extension of me., it allows me to be light, flexible and discrete. The Leica M demands this diligence and it changes the way you shoot and see, it gives me a look and a presence at weddings that sets me apart (in my niche world anyway).

And finally the Leica M9 produces amazing images , limited only by my skills but gives me huge pleasure in my work. More of my work can be seen at my website HERE.

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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 :)

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Dec 152010
 

Check out these amazing IR photos taken with an M8..WOW..Inspiring!

Inspired by a “Faulty” Sensor

By Konstantinos Besios – (See his Blog)

The Leica M8 was “in trouble” when its high sensitivity to infrared light was discovered, M8 owners had to live with a UV/IR filter on their lenses, but when this cursed filter is replaced with either a Hoya R72 or a B+W 092 IR filter, then a door to a new world opens ….

A great tool for infrared photography and the best thing is that you can even shoot infrared without a tripod and get away with it ….

Below are some images I’ve taken with the Leica M8 and B+W 092 infrared filter.

(Note: the b&w image with the lady on the bridge is shot with a Leica M7 and Ilford SFX 200 film, the close up tree b&w photo against the sun is taken with a Leica M1 and Efke IR820 film.The rest of the images are from the M8)

Dec 142010
 

Hi Steve,

I hope you are doing good. My name is Franz Bohr and I am fan of classic cameras that´s why I have been following your blog (thanks to google reader) for more then a year. I like beautifully designed gear like old rangefinder cameras or the newer retro-styled cams from Oly. There is nothing more motivating and inviting then a great piece of industrial design, isn´t it ? One thing the classic rangefinder M-Leicas unfortunately dont feature is an auto focus. I say unfortunately because for my work i consider auto focus a must.

So what i use for most of my shots is the rather small but great Olympus Pen EP-1. As most of your readers know this camera got much love here on Stevehuffphoto.com and i think it is one of the best deals out there in camera land. You get a very classic looking and rigid body which is very leightweight and pocketable at the same time. In pair with the incredible Panasonic Lumix Pancake 20mm f/1.7 this makes it a dynamic and unbeatable duo for me (especially considering the fact that you get both for altogether 600 Euros).

That´s the reason why this PEN-Pancake combo has become my daily companion. Actually most of my best shots i took when going to work / to the studio (i am an electronic music producer). My current photography related project covers my obsession for people photography. It is called “Faces” and i would like to invite you to have at look it.

here is my set:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/autist/sets/72157624628409020/

Dec 132010
 

Happy Monday to all! Today I decided to post a quick comparison between the much loved Leica X1 and the misunderstood Ricoh GXR (tested here with the 28mm Lens Module). I was curious as to which camera put out a better file, which camera had better high ISO and which camera was faster in operation. Here are my findings and I hope you guys find them useful.

We all know the Leica X1 is a gorgeous compact camera that packs a whallop in the image quality department. The main issue with the X1 is it’s cost ($1995) and its slow AF speed (which will be improved with firmware that is being worked on now). Other than that it has proven to be a remarkable little camera. The GXR has had a tough time in the market due to the fact that it takes “lens modules” that have a sensor built in to the lens. You can see my full GXR review HERE but I myself really enjoy the camera and find its build, feel and operation are really really good. The 28mm lens module is really a great lens but the GXR and X1 do have some differences in the way they render an image.

BUILD:

The GXR wins in the build quality department. It’s sturdier feeling and just feels solid. The X1 is very very nice here as well but has a sort of lighter more hollow feel to it. Still, both cameras are great in the build department. No complaints. The X1 is a prettier camera no doubt but that is all personal preference. Some will enjoy the industrial looking GXR and many will drool over the sexy looks of the X1. I love the style of the X1 and think it’s a better looking camera than the GXR.

AF SPEED:

Between the GXR with the 28mm and the Leica X1 the GXR is a bit faster with focusing. When the new firmware comes out for the X1 in the next 2-3 months then they may be equal or the X1 may even be faster because I have been hearing good things about the speed enhancements. As it is now, the Ricoh locks on a bit quicker than the X1 but truth be told, neither are speed demons but both are VERY accurate and rarely miss focus.

IMAGE QUALITY:

This is the big one. Both cameras use a larger APS-C sensor and they do so while keeping the body sizes small. Both cameras go up to ISO 3200 and the X1 has a 24 Elmarit which ends up being a 36mm equivalent while the 18mm on the GXR happens to be a 28mm equivalent. So the focal lengths are a bit different in these tests but it was as close as I could get with the GXR. All tests were done at the same aperture and a few were with the same exact setting while some I let the cameras choose their own exposure in A mode.

**YOU MUST CLICK ON THE IMAGES BELOW TO SEE THE FULL SIZE FILES – THEY ARE STRAIGHT FROM CAMERA (RAW) WITH NO ENHANCEMENTS OR ALTERATIONS**

BELOW – GXR WITH 28MM – F/8 – Base iso of 200

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BELOW – X1 at f/8 – Base ISO of 100

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100% crops – no enhancements – no sharpening – no tweaks – straight from camera (RAW)

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and more…This shot was ay ISO 1600 with each but I let the camera pick the shutter speed to see how each camera would expose the scene.

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and the 100% crops…

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More at ISO 200 – f/2.8 – remember, click on each image for the full size out of camera untouched files!

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and the 100% crops…

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Some high ISO testing – I used a tripod here and set each camera to the same ISO, same aperture and same shutter speed..

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and the 100% crops…

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one more – testing ISO 1600 and Auto White Balance in semi low light (indoor daytime) – The GXR does have better AWB IMO over the X1 and its shows here. The X1 has the yellow cast that shows up in lower light.

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and the 100% crops…

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So there you go. Comparisons at low ISO, the highest ISO and a AWB test. Both cameras seem pretty similar with the X1 seeming brighter (and maybe more livelier) in most situations. In some of the shots it appears the GXR is a little sharper than the X1 but it also has a bit of a different signature. The GXR has better AWB in low light IMO. The X1 is $1995 and the GXR with 28mm lens is about $1050, almost half the cost. The GXR has the capabilities to change lenses/sensors and the X1 does not.

The X1 is a Leica and has the red dot and is a gorgeous looking camera. It’s simple, has easy controls and is highly a highly capable camera with a fixed focal length of 36mm. The GXR is more industrial looking and sturdier. While the controls are not as elegant as the X1, they are there.

I’ve had people ask me which camera I would buy if I was starting from scratch and wanted a compact big sensor camera – The X1 or the GXR system. That would be tough because I would have to see what the new firmware does for the X1 but with that being said, I think my heart would want the X1 but my brain would tell me to go with the GXR. Then again, the Fuji X100 which should be available within 3 months will throw a wrench into this whole thing. If the Fuji is as good as it appears to be (and it may not be) then it will be the one to beat. BUT the Fuji is much bigger than the X1 or the GXR so it is not really a compact.

For a compact big sensor you have three choices that are good – The Leica X1 at $2k, the GXR and Module at about $1k and the Sony NEX-5 with kit lens at $700. Those are my three favorite in the small size/big sensor market.

Thanks for reading this and I hope it was useful to some of you! The X1 is currently out of stock almost everywhere but it seems that Dale Photo has at least one in stock here and they are a site sponsor that is 100% trustworthy. The GXR is available through Amazon for $349 for the body only, and they have a few in stock HERE. The 28mm module is available to order at Amazon as well. Enjoy!

Steve

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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