Mar 042011

First Impressions of the Finepix X100 from a rangefinder shooter.

By Pieter Franken

Hi Steve – first of all thank you for inviting me to share my first impressions on the Fujifilm Finepix X100. It went on sale here in Tokyo on Thursday and I was lucky to get one on day-one.

First a bit about myself – My name is Pieter Franken.  I’m from Holland and live in Tokyo. I love taking pictures and for the past 3 years have been hooked on the Leica M8 and now M9. I do love shooting with various gear, and have gravitated over time towards portable, high performance cameras to fit my shooting style. When the X100 was announced it got my strong interest as a ‘sidekick’ camera to carry around with the M9 to do snapshots, macro shots and just for fun shooting.

So here it is! I have been using the camera exactly one day, and these are my first, quick (and biased) impressions.

Overall impression The X100 is extremely well built, feels good and is the right size for manual focus handling. Especially the optical hybrid view finder is wonderful – its clarity is breath taking and allows for easy composition. It is easy to use and delivers good quality pictures, especially high ISO is impressive. The auto focus mechanism is not always easy to use, but when setup properly it delivers and allows for rangefinder style shooting. It is great fun to shoot with the X100. And of-course the X100 looks are great!

Lens – the f2 focal lens begs comparison with Leica glass. When compared to a modern 35mm summicron (ASPH or late non ASPH), the performance of the Fuji lens lags a bit – Wide open it is a bit softer, less sharp. Some people may actually like this over the razor sharpness of the Summicron ASPH. From f2.8 onwards, it is crisper and clean. The lens can be stepped in full stops only – it would have been nice to have half stops. As the lens uses an in lens focal plane shutter, there are some limitations to the maximum shutter speed. When shooting wide open, the maximum is 1/1000 – to counter this limitation there’s a built in ND filter that can be enabled and offer 3 stops extra. This is very neat and works very well. I ended up using it a lot when shooting outside to get nice bokeh in full sunlight.  This also removes the need to carry around any ND filters.

Shutter – one of the great properties of the X100 is the silent shutter. The menu offers an option to put the camera in ‘silent mode’ and when once set there’s almost no sound. The shutter button feels nice and gives good mechanical feedback, so it is easy to know when you have taken a shot. The shutter sound is much less then the Leica M9 (or MP) and is a great for discrete shooting. When shooting in manual focus mode (highly recommended) the shutter response is immediate and you can take pictures in quick succession. The shutter button can take a release cord.

High ISO – I was really surprised when shooting in high ISO. Performance is in the same class as my D700. Pictures taken at ISO6400 have nice grain and color information is not lost or smeared. Detail is for all practical purposes acceptable. Nice!

Auto focus – The most critical component of the X100 is the hybrid view finder and focusing mechanism. The flawless switch between optical and electronic view finder is truly awesome – especially in bright sunlight the view finder excels. For focussing, Fuji has broken the focus range into two ranges – normal and macro. The camera needs to be put in macro mode when shooting objects closer than 80cm, though under some conditions I was able to focus up to 50cm without switching to macro. It helps when setting the focal area ‘square’ to the smallest size possible for precise pin-point auto focus.  In practice the AF range is a bit of inconvenient and I end up switching al lot between macro and normal. The speed of focus is not the fastest out there – it lags behind the Lumix GF1 with 20mm in terms of speed. Some improvement here from Fuji would help!

Manual focusrangefinder style shooting. The key is to shoot the X100 in manual focus mode. Once setup, you can compose with the optical viewfinder, and with one button switch to the electronic view finder to enlarge the focal point for precise focussing. The X100 has a control button that once pressed will auto-focus the lens, so you don’t have to spin the focal ring to much. You can then do micro focussing with the focus ring. The focus ring it self is very slow, which is great for precise focusing, but not good if you need to dial in the focal point fast. Some software accelerator would have been nice. This is not a real problem, as you can use the aforementioned control button to do a global focus and work from there. Once focussed, you can pretty much shoot in zone mode and have immediate shutter release without any lag due to AF. I ended up shooting most of the pictures with manual focus and found it easy to use.

Frame lines – as you shoot near or far, the frame lines in the optical vew finder change accordingly to ensure precise composition. Especially when shooting macro this is very handy. The frame lines are adjusted after setting focus, so you need to compose near shots after getting the focus right. When shooting manual focus, this works best. The frame-lines are conservative, and you always get a bit more then shown.

JPG output – JPG output is pretty good. What is nice here is that Fuji offers 3 color modes labelled Provia, Velvia and Astia after their positive film range. For B&W, it offer various modes with Yellow, Red and Green filters – this is much easier then most B&W in camera options I have used so far. I ended up using the Provia for most shots as I wanted to have neutral output for post-editing in LR. Another nice touch is that it has a RAW converter built into the camera, so you can create your own conversion settings without need for post editing.

RAW output – Unfortunately the X100 has no support for RAW handling in LR yet. It comes with Silkypix (windows and mac) for RAW conversion to JPG and TIFF, but not DNG. I’m not a big fan of Silkypix as it is very slow to use and not intuitive. TIFF files when converted are a whopping 36MB. Lets hope Adobe LR comes out with RAW support soon!

Compared to the Leica M9 – well Steve… don’t sell or give away your M9!  The X100 is not a rangefinder camera and is not an alternate for the M9. Comparison with the Leica X1 or other high-end compacts would be more meaningful. The image quality,  performance and rangefinder handling of the M9 are well beyond the X100. This is not a surprise and was also not my reason for getting the X100. What the X100 does well over the M9 though is close-ups, useable high ISO output, good auto white balance, clean JPG output, silent shutter and pocketable size. And, lots of fun!

I will be shooting the X100 next to the M9 over the coming days and hope to report more of my impressions after having spent some more ‘serious’ time.

For first snap shots please visit my Flickr page. All samples are available if full resolution, JPG camera output.

Sample Pictures:
– X100 versus M3 (taken with a Lumix GH2 with 20mm ‘magic’ pancake lens)


– High ISO sample at ISO 6400 (Marantz 8B amplifier)

– B&W conversion sample (vintage car)

– Close-up – (Japanese old pump)

– Street shot at f8

– Street shot at f2 with ND filter




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

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

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

Mar 042011




**14 OF 15 SEATS HAVE BEEN SOLD AS OF MARCH 09th 2011! Only 1 REMAIN!**

We are also adding to the itinerary for the weekend with new guests, photo strolls and other cool surprises!

The Seattle, WA Workshop/Meetup – July 23rd & 24th 2011!

“Tell your Story!”

Here we go! The next workshop/meetup will be in Seattle, WA July 23rd and 24th 2011 in the Fremont Neighborhood which is super close to downtown and all kinds of beauty, culture, and photo opportunities!. This will be a TWO day meetup/workshop and it will be filled with all kinds of fun and exciting photo fun, people, places, food and things!  This one will be bigger & better than the NYC workshop from October. Full of spirit, passion, and splendid photography opportunities! I guarantee a great time will be had by all. Ashwin Rao and I are organizing this event to be one to remember with special guest additions, evening photo strolls, Leica demos, and a surprise or two thrown in as well. Don’t miss out on what will become an amazing photo passion filled weekend!

But first, A History – My very 1st Meetup/Workshop in NYC – 2010

NYC Workshop – 2010 – Steve Huff

Last October 2010 I met 21 of you at the first official meetup in NYC and we had a blast. The weather was cold and nasty but we pushed through and came away with some new friends, new skills, and the opportunity to shoot in the hustle and bustle of NYC to create some memorable images! Some of us even had a great time at the pub after the event! I was thrilled to see so many passionate people attending the NYC event and also thrilled to meet everyone who attended. It was a great time but being the 1st of it’s kind for this site, it was a more laid back, take it as we go kind of approach. With that said, I have huge plans for #2!

Here are a few fun images from the last time around …


Mark Your Calendars! July 23rd and 24th 2011!

This time around Ashwin Rao, (who writes for this site quite often and is an fantastic Leica photographer) will be hosting the event at his home during the day and evening hours of the 23rd and 24th of July, 2011. This will be a weekend, and the weather should be nice so I am looking forward to a GREAT time. High Speed Wi-Fi will be available at the house as well, thanks to Ashwin!

UPDATE: Tim Isaac, the man behind the “Thumbs Up” most of us use on our M8 and M9 will also be in attendance showing off his products and to chat with everyone. Tim is also a passionate M shooter so it is AWESOME  that he will be attending the event! I own a thumbs up and soft release myself. Great products!

UPDATE: Just added! Seattle pro, Roger Paperno will also be there to speak!

UPDATE: Added guest speaker and presenter CHARLES PETERSON!


Riccis Valladares looking over images shot by Sori Gottdenker at the NYC workshop

No need to own a Leica to attend! ANYONE who has a passion for photography can attend this event so no matter what camera you shoot with, you can come and benefit from the days events! There will be presentations, street shooting, an assignment for all, critiquing, Q & A session with myself and Ashwin Rao, one on one shooting time with myself as well as a great lunch on both days fully included where we will visit some local eateries with great food.

We will even visit Glazers Camera in Seattle where a Leica rep will give us a Demo of the current Leica cameras. I may even be able to get a Leica S2 for the day as well and Ashwin and I both have a  50 Noctilux ASPH in case anyone wants to check them out on their own M. I will also have a Fuji X100 on hand as well as a few other cameras!

UPDATE: Also, there will be a special prize give away of a special camera and loads of accessories to one lucky attendee (random prize drawing)!

THE FINAL SCHEDULE OF EVENTS! It will be a busy weekend for us all!.

Saturday, July 23rd

9:00 AM: Workshop attendees arrive at Ashwin’s home

– Top Pot Donuts (on of Seattle’s most famous donut spots) with coffee for breakfast

9:15ish: Steve’s intro & welcome

9:15-10:30: Introductions of each of the conference attendees (5 min per person)

10:30-10:45 : Ashwin Rao’s welcome, introduction, & brief portfolio slideshow

10:45 – 11:15:  Guest speaker introductions: Tim Isaac, Roger Paperno

11:30- 1:30: Morning stroll at Pike’s Place Market – An introduction to Seattle’s “street” of memories. Pike’s Place offers the most street photography of any place in Seattle, with a wide variety of photo making opportunities

1:30-2:30 Lunch at Pikes Place Chowder (sourdough bread bowl and chowdah!)

2:30-3:00 travel to & arrive at Glazers Camera for a Leica Demo; Meet with Mark Vercammen, Glazers’ Leica guru extraordinaire.

3:00- 4:00 pm: Glazers Camera –  Leica Demo with Brad Weeks, Leica’s Pacific Northwest camera representative.

4-4:30: Walk over to Glazers Rentals for Rao/Tanabe Photography Exhibit & talk on “How to exhibit and promote your work”

4:30-7  pm Return to Ashwin’s for photo editing, critique, and sharing; concurrent “Thumbs Up”/Match Technical display & gear demo at Ashwin’s

– Snacks and food on hand

7:15– 8:15: Evening sunset “postcard” photo stroll at Kerry Park

8:30- 9:30 pm Group Dinner and evening cap at Rays Boathouse near Golden Gardens

9:30-11 pm (time and attendee desire permitting): Optional later night, low light photo stroll for any interested. Likely location will be Belltown nightlife (downtown)


Sunday, July 24th

9:00- Breakfast: Mighty O Donuts and Coffee

9:15-9:45: Steve’s presentation of photos (Seal tour  & Street photography around the world)

9:45-10: 15: Introduction & Discussion Lead by Charles Peterson

10:15-11:00 Recap of the day – Lessons learned

11:00 AM – 1 PM: Photo Telling stroll – Space Needle/ Seattle Center

–  Optional ride up the needle. It’s a fun place to photograph from above as well, both the people and the city!

1:30-3 PM: Lunch at Eastlake Bar & Grill

3:30-5:15 pm: PM stroll at Discovery Park, Seattle’s “nature preserve”

5:30- 7:30 pm: Return for critique and discussion of story telling

7:30-8 pm: Prize giveaway ( a complete kick butt camera system with all accessories )

8:00 pm: Group Wrap-Up Dinner at Tutta Bella Pizzeria


Workshop Host: Steve Huff

Workshop Local Host & Organizer: Ashwin Rao


Honored attendees and contributors

Tim Isaac of MatchTechnical, creator of the ThumbsUp Grip for Leica M cameras

Charles Peterson, Rock & Documentary Photography

Roger Paperno: Pro Photographer and local co-host

Brad Weeks, Leica Northwest Representative

Mark Vercammen, Glazers Camera Leica Guru


  • Dinner is not included, but attendance is encouraged
  • Itinerary is subject to change, pending weather and happenstance



You know you want to go! Here is how to Register!

As of May 26th 2011 there is ONE spot available.

The total cost for the two day workshop will be $525 per person which includes both days of the workshop, lunch provided both days at a local restaurant (food and beverage, no alcohol as we can head to a pub later for that), all presentations and critiques, assignments,  as well as the Leica demos and use of an M9 if requested (I should have at least two for use by those who would like to try them out). I am limiting this once again to 20 people and even possibly 15. The last event sold out quick and I had many others wanting to get in but they were too late! I will also be giving away a great prize to one lucky attendee!

It will be a weekend of meeting like minded passionate people with every hour of each day packed with something fun and exciting. Lots of Leica but again, even if you shoot with an Olympus you can attend this event! It is about photography, passion and getting out there and shooting! No stuffy “know it all” attitudes, just learning, sharing, and shooting! The way it should be!

I hope to see you there in July!

I can accept payment via credit card using google checkout or personal check/money order. Either way, if you want to attend this memorable event E-MAIL me HERE when you are ready to commit and I will e-mail you an invoice that you can pay. Once you do this you will be locked in!


For those flying in to Seattle for the weekend there are many hotels in the nearby area. The area we will be in is a neighborhood called Fremont and is just a mile or two from downtown. We will be super close by all of the cool areas to shoot, that is for certain! Clicking here will bring up a page filled with info on the area as well as hotels. This page will be updated as we fine tune the weekend events so check back often!

Mar 042011

The Friday Film: A Look Back at a Classic! The Leica CM Zoom.

By Steve Huff

Yea! The Friday film is back for today, March 4th 2011! It’s been a while since  I shot film and I have to say I missed it! A few months ago I had some extreme financial issues and had to sell off my MP, M9, and almost everything I owned. All I was left with photography related was a fridge with about 12 rolls of film in it. Ugg. The good news is that in the past few months I have been concentrating on this website more and more as well as getting things back that I lost. I once again own an X1, soon to own an M9 again, and even a Fuji X100. But what was really unexpected was having the chance to own this little Leica CM red leather zoom camera. A camera that I have eyeballed for YEARS but never jumped on. To be honest, back in 2003 I wanted THIS Leica CM with the 40mm f2.4 lens and even had it in my cart at B&H Photo a few times. I never did pull the trigger though!

So here I am in 2011 and I still think of the CM from time to time. It just so happened a reader of the site was selling off some VERY cool film point and shoot style cameras and gave me first dibs on any or all of them. He offered to send them ALL to me for a week to review but I knew there was no way I could shoot enough film in one week to review all four of them. Instead I asked if he could send me the CM zoom and if I liked it I would just send him payment for it. So two days later it arrived to my mailbox via USPS Express. WOW, that was fast. I heard great things about the Zoom from a dear friend of mine who owns one and his advice was to “BUY IT!”. Like I needed a push…yea right!

As soon as I opened it and pulled it out of its leather case I knew I would want to keep it. Red leather, a red gordy strap, and a brown Leica brand leather case all included for a GREAT price. He even sent along three rolls of film! I immediately loaded it with some C-41 Kodak BW400 and the camera loaded it up perfectly! All I had to do was open the back, place the roll of film in its place and pull the film across and close the door. The camera started loading it all up and it was ready to go in a matter of seconds.

The CM Zoom has a Leica Elmar Zoom lens Lens, more specifically a Leica Vario-Elmar 35-70mm f/3.5-6.5. It is a slow lens indeed so no fast F1.4 or F2 or F2.5 apertures here but my guess was that this was going to be a gorgeous lens anyway as the Elmar lenses usually are.

To turn on the camera all I had to do was twist the zoom lens out and the camera powered on. I laughed as I did a test snap because the camera focused quicker than my Leica X1, lol.

The viewfinder is TINY though but hey, it is what it is… a Leica point and shoot. The cool thing is that it is a made in Germany Leica and it feels and looks the part. The camera is small, stout, solid and feels great in the hand. In reality , there are plenty of cameras that feel great in the hand but for some reason when I hold a Leica I just feel like I am home. The camera that came before this one, the Miniulx, was smaller and did not look as nice IMO. It was also made in Japan. Not that this is a bad thing, but it seems very un-Leica like. The CM and CM Zoom is a true Leica through and  through.

There is even an electronic display on the back so you can change flash settings, set the date on or off, exposure compensation and more. It is not on in the photo (sorry about that)

This is the official Leica CM Leather case which I believe sold for $150 or so. There is also a Gordys Strap attached to the camera :)

Looks wise, the camera is simply gorgeous. It’s fatter than the X1 but almost the same size.

Here is as shot of the X1 next to the CM Zoom for those interested in the size of the CM, both pretty sexy looking I must say…


Yea, as usual with most things Leica I fell for it so I think I am buying it for sure. Before posting this review I e-mailed the generous reader who let me try it before buying and told him I will most likely buy it. I really can not afford yet another camera but these do not come around every day with Red leather and case so what the hell, right? You only live once. Besides, I no longer own a film M so for 1/10th the price of a new MP I can still own a beautiful film Leica. It’s nothing like an MP, but it is a fun to use little camera.

The camera is easy to operate and use and I did not need a manual to use it. Loading the film was a breeze and the camera itself is in fantastic condition. What else can I say about this little guy that has not been said over the years?

Since I have been yapping about how great this little guy is how about stating a few of the negs…

NEGATIVE #1 – The lens is SLOW! Yep, it’s an Elmarit. At its widest end of 35mm it is f 3.5. SLOW when you are shooting Leica. This will not be a low light camera unless you don’t mind using the flash (which I have used and it did great). My 1st roll with the little CM was with some Kodak BW400 which is a C-41 print B&W film. No it’s not a Tri-X or Neopan but it’s easy to have processed for quick evaluation :)

NEGATIVE #2 – Max shutter speed is 1/500. I guess this is not really a negative, but just the limitation of the camera. I had some ISO 160 film loaded and even at f/5.6 the LED’s were binking “HI” which meant it would be overexposed if I took the shot due to the shutter speed maxing out at 1/500s. But to be fair, most point and shoot film cameras maxed out at 1/500 so it is what it is :)

NEGATIVE #3 – Distortion/Vignetting/Flaring. I found at the wide end of 35mm the lens distorts a bit. You can see this clearly in the following image when looking at the walls and mirror:

There is also vignetting when shot at 35mm and wide open at f3.5. I don’t mind it at all though, I like vignetting in my photos from time to time.

Lens flare anyone?

Other than these few niggles, which are usually expected in a cheaper P&S, I found no issues with the CM Zoom. The Viewfinder is tiny but this is a point & shoot camera, not an MP.

Speed wise, the camera if pretty fast to focus and shoot and seems faster than my X1. Solid construction, beefy feel and cute looks. IQ wise, it seems like the lens is capable of good results but just be aware of the three things above and you will be fine.

I have seen these sell for anywhere between $550 and $800 depending on if it comes with a box, case, manual, etc. If you are looking for a great little stylish film camera that won’t break the bank you have a few options. Cameras like the Nikon 35Ti, the Contax T2, Contax TVS III are also great choices but for some, only a Leica will do. These are not that easy to find but can sometimes be found through Leica dealer Ken Hansen (email: [email protected]) or possibly dealers like Dale Photo may get one in from time to time. The Zoom version seems easier to find than the 40mm version though.

Someone asked me why I would buy one of these when I could buy a Voigtlander Bessa which sells without a lens for about $669. Add a lens and you are well over $1k. The reason I would buy a CM over a bessa is due to NOT having a film P&S in my camera stable. Cameras like the CM can be fun, they are small and quick to operate. Totally different type of camera that I would probably shot with 3-4 X a year. Plus, it’s a Leica and I’m a fan of what  they do and what they stand for. Lastly at 10X less than an MP (without a lens) this little camera is actually a pretty good deal when bought used. These are not meant to be compared to a rangefinder so I didn’t do so. It’s more like an analogue X1 which right there makes it just cool to own. It comes down to price though. At around $500 it was hard to pass up!

The quick snapshot samples

Here are a few samples from the roll of Kodak C41 BW400, processed and scanned by my local Walgreens drug store (this means crappy low resolution scans). Just basic snapshots as I had nothing going on this past week.

The CM Zoom caught this running dog in mid air!

Even the built in flash did a pretty decent job here…

Wide open at 3.5…

Bokeh at 3.5 looks good to me…also remember these are cheap, low res Walgreens drug store scans.

I now have a roll of Kodak Portra 160 NC in the camera and hope to shoot some cool stuff this weekend with it. I’ll post the results in a future “Friday Film”. Yea, I’m digging the film again!

BTW, if anyone out there has a red or cognac Leica CM (not the Zoom) in the box, in great condition and you want to sell it send me an e-mail HERE. Heck, even a black one if it is mint, in box. Thanks!

For those who asked, here is a  shot with the lens exposed :)


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

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

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

Mar 022011

Photographing With What You Have Got…

I have been lucky enough to get some really big shoots lately. Some of the celebrities that I have photographed have had too many photo shoots to count, so I always ask myself what can I do with my camera to make them want me there instead of someone else? The answer for me is that I photograph with what I have got.

I have something inside me that searches for the shot that no one else is taking. I bring this search to every shoot and find my shot in the world around me. Whether it is trying a new perspective, a new angle, or a funny twist on a situation, the best tool I can bring to shoots is my creative brain, because that is what I have got.

For many years I have not been able to afford the equipment my colleagues rave about. So I photograph with what I have got. Is this a bad thing? No. What it has taught me is to learn the equipment I have really well. Instead of learning actions in Photoshop or presets in my camera, I explore apertures, shutter speeds, and ISOs on a daily basis, because that is what I have got.

Here are some samples from my latest shoot with Taylor Swift. With Taylor she is such a beauty and photographed so often that this will be a great way to show you what I am talking about. It is such a challenge to search for the shot that is not already out there of her, and deliver it in a way that is unmistakably me. My lens broke on this shoot and I am so thankful. I got things I never would have gotten if the autofocus had been working. In the end, if you have got your camera and you have got your mind and you are able to put them together in a way that works, you have something no one else has.

Update – On Sep 21st 2011 Ann-Marie requested I remove her photos, so I obliged. Sorry. 

Mar 012011


Heidi Klum and Rankin have looked over the top 15 that I e-mailed to them and picked not only the grand prize winner of the M9 but the 2nd place winner of the Leica V-Lux 20. They also picked a third place winner and Seal donated yet another prize for a third place bonus prize!


Brian Wytcherley, Shuangliu, Chengdu China – “Shortage of rural doctors in China’s Yunnan province”

Congrats to Brian for his amazing story portrayed in the two images above. You are the winner of the Leica M9!!

Rankin and Heidi looked over all images and this was the #1 pick.

Here is what Rankin had to say about this set:

“I love the photographer’s ability to capture the sense of loss and the raw emotion that comes with losing someone. It would be impossible to look as this and not be touched by the boy’s feelings of immense grief.”


Jonathan Cook – “Guy Jones – My Arm Was My Pillow”

Congratulations Jonathan! You are the winner of the Leica V-Lux 2! Thanks to Leica Camera for donating this awesome prize!

Here is what Rankin had to say about this set:

“When I look at this image, I want to know more about the subject. His face and hands are bursting with emotion, and these images could tell a thousand stories”


Helene Marie Pambrun – “Some scars can’t be hidden”

Congrats to Helene! Heidi liked your image so much that we decided to add a third place bonus prize as a cool surprise. Seal has donated a new Luigi case for a Leica M9. This case comes with strap, and SD card holder. This is a top of the line case for a digital M and even if you do not own an M9 now, save the case for when you do!

Coming next week – A brand new contest with a pretty high in demand prize donated by ~6.  Thanks to Seal, Heidi, Rankin and! I want to personally congratulate all of the 15 finalists as you were all FANTASTIC. The decision on the top two was not an easy one. Anyone could have won this one!

Feb 282011


I’m here the first time. The name is Gerd, living in Germany between Hannover and Frankfurt, I am physician and started taking pictures at age 16 (with Dad’s Olympus OM 1 and the great XA). About 15 years ago during a visit at the local photo dealer an old man (another customer, I suppose, or was it the ghost of Oscar Barnack?) came to me and spoke: “Don’t buy another Nikon, the only camera is a Leica M6, buy one NOW! So I was happy with my M6 several years, switched over to Pentax DSLR till (same dealer but without Oscar’s ghost) my photo dealer gave me last week a brand new Lumix G2 with Nokton 0,95 on it. The EVF was the best I ever saw, the adaptor for my Leica lenses was in stock too, you see the first results here, made in the early morning in beautiful countryside called “Schwalm” on my way to work (I stopped about ten times). Lumix G2 with Voigtlaender Nokton 0,95/25, at home waited Adobe LR3 and the brand new Silver Efex Pro 2, so I had to test all the gimmicks… so please excuse 1) my english and 2) some faults in “postprocessing”.


Yours, Gerd

PS: Great Homepage! I visit everyday.

Feb 282011

The Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 Lens review for Micro 4/3 by David Babsky

The 25mm Voigtländer f0.95 lens for micro-four-thirds cameras: is this the perfect low-light, beautiful bokeh, ‘dream’ lens for Olympus and Panasonic owners?

Erm, sort of.

1 – It’s a manual focus lens. Leica owners will be used to that. Everyone else uses auto

2 – It’s excruciatingly sharp at f2.8 ..but not at all at f0.95 (which is the aperture you’d buy it for)

3 – It’s long and hefty – three times the size, price, and weight of Panasonic’s wide-aperture 20mm f1.7

4 – It’s €900 / £830 / $900 for a soft *close-focus* ‘portrait’ lens

That *close-focus* aspect is, perhaps, the main reason for recommending it. Focus goes down to 0.17 of a metre ..that’s six-and-a-bit inches. This is like having a bellows – or extension rings – fitted to a Panasonic 20mm lens. This let’s you get really close, and – when it’s stopped down to f2.8 – really *sharp* too!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

[Hand Panny 20mm] – This is what the Panasonic ‘pancake’ 20mm lens sees at its closest, and widest aperture f1.7


[Hand Voigt 25mm] – This is what the Voigtländer 25mm sees at its closest, and widest aperture f0.95


But for general-purpose, night-time, low-light photography (or daylight photography with maybe a neutral-density filter on it)? Well, a couple of adaptors (Olympus to Four/Thirds and Four/Thirds to micro4/3) let you use an old Olympus 50mm f1.2 at almost the same aperture, and that focuses down to 17″, and – shooting at twice the distance (because it’s a 50mm lens) you get pretty much the same picture as the Voigt – while being sharper and clearer than this Voigtländer is when wide open. (Konica’s old ‘Hexar’ f1.2 Leica-fit 50mm, and other Leica interchangeable lenses, will focus only as close as a metre, so they’re not in the same league. Voigtländer’s own 50mm f1.1 costs $1000 but also focuses to only 1 metre.)


[Taxi 0.95] – ‘Grab’ shot at night at f0.95 from a passing taxi: nothing’s sharp (except perhaps that Carphone Warehouse shopfront in the gloom at lower right) because the Voigt’s depth-of-field at f0.95 is so shallow that only ONE distance can be sharp, and the rest will be indistinct. GF1, ISO 800, 1/800th of a second, f0.95



The Olympus 50mm lens turns through 180º from infinity to closest focus (0.45m/17″). With a similar 180º turn the Voigt focuses from infinity down to 8½”, but then keeps on going for another 90º to get another 2 inches closer. That means it’s slower – but more accurate – to focus all the way. Panasonic’s ‘kit-lens’ 20mm f1.7 takes about 220º to turn from infinity to closest focus (8 inches) manually (but why would anyone do that?) ..but only a fraction of a second to do that automatically.

So what’s the point of the Voigt? Marketing, primarily. f/0.95 is the “triumphant” achievement of the Leica lens designer(s) at Solms for the current ‘Noctilux‘ ..the low-light 50mm lens for the Leica M9 (and other M models). Everyone – it seems – wants one; Leica dealers are all sold out, and the waiting list is about a year long. (There are usually old Canon full-frame 50mm 0.95 lenses knocking around on eBay ..and, of course, equivalent old TV and 16mm-film lenses of 25mm f0.95 like Angenieux, Meyer, Soligor, Navitar, Berthiot, Schneider, etc, which can all be engineered to fit micro4/3 cameras.)

But why does anyone want that 0.95 Noctilux performance though? Its depth-of-field is wafer thin ..and the closer you focus, the less depth there is, so the more difficult it is to get the focus right. Perhaps it’s like buying a Titanium M9, or a Plutonium M6, or a Tantalum MP. Some people have just gotta have it “because it’s there”, as George Mallory supposedly said of Mount Everest.

So 0.95 has a bit of marketing value. “If I can’t have a 0.95 50mm Noctilux, at least I can have a 0.95 25mm (same thing as a 50mm when used on an m4/3 camera) Nokton!” ..but the question is still “why?”

Panasonic’s own 20mm ‘pancake’ gives the same slightly wide view on m4/3 as a 40mm lens gives on a full-frame 35mm camera. (A bit wider view than a ‘standard’ lens, a bit more depth-of-field, a good wide aperture without such large, heavy glass as f1.7 would be on a 50mm lens.)

But.. that Panasonic 20mm isn’t so much *fun* as Voigtländer’s ‘Nokton’. The 20mm “just does it” just takes photographs: squeeze the button, the lens focuses, you’ve got the shot. With the ‘Nokton’, you have to work at it: you’ve got to hold and twist the lens, try to get the focus right ..go up to the focus, a bit beyond, then wind back to make sure that it’s REALLY sharp, then squeeze the button. There’s more *involvement* ..but, of course, that doesn’t mean the photos will be any “better” ..though with all that effort, they may be more memorable for the photographer.

So the 25mm Nokton is a $900 way to have *fun* with photography. But it means you can’t just point and shoot and get quick, sharp results. It’s like a “stick shift” (manual gear change) car, compared with an automatic. It’s like hauling in the sails with a “grind it yourself” winch, instead of just pressing a switch. It’s like climbing the stairs instead of taking the lift (elevator). There’s a bit of exertion and effort involved, instead of just pointing and squeezing. Maybe that – and a suggestion of “exclusivity” with that f0.95 hole in the front – is what seems to make the f0.95 Nokton appealing.

But is it really any good?


[A V25 0.95] – Angie in the bathroom. Voigtländer 25mm at f0.95. With this wide aperture the surroundings are smeared away, and you concentrate on her face.

[A P20 1.7] – Similar shot, from the same distance, with the Panasonic 20mm pancake at f1.7. Angie’s very sharp, but that background has become a distraction. Your eyes don’t know where to look.

[A Oly50 1.2] – Same shot, same distance, but with an old Olympus 50mm f1.2 from an Olympus OM2 35mm film camera, with a couple of simple off-the-shelf adaptors to fit it to micro4/3. Pow! That’s impact. You don’t look anywhere except her eyes. (The 50mm behaves like a 100mm f1.2 telephoto on the small m4/3 sensor.)

[A Can85 1.8] – Same shot, same distance, with an old ‘traditional’ Canon rangefinder f1.8 Leica-fit ‘portrait’ lens and an off-the-shelf m4/3 adaptor. Really TOO big escape, overwhelming! (The 85mm becomes a 170mm on the m4/3 sensor!)

(All ISO 200, Panasonic GF1, straight out of the camera jpegs, with no adjustment. The Canon lens gives a slightly yellower look than the others.)

_ _ _ _ _ _

At its widest aperture of f0.95 anything slightly out of focus is “smeared” out, giving a very soft and un-distracting ‘bokeh’ (out-of-focus highlights), and a ‘dreamy’ appearance to anything which isn’t sharply focused. And, of course, that produces great differentiation between what you’ve focused on, and what you haven’t ..a kind of ‘3-D’ effect, in which the sharpest zone ought to ‘pop out’ like a cardboard cut-out in front of a blurred background ..that’s what happens with the genuine Noctilux.

But the closer you get to whatever you’re shooting, and the wider the aperture you use, the shallower that sharp zone becomes, and – with this Nokton – all of what should be sharp starts to look soft, because out-of-focus areas bleed into the sharp zone. Leica’s Noctilux is optimised to give the sharpest possible focus at its widest possible aperture by using ‘floating elements’ in the lens structure and highly refractive glass. This Nokton is NOT optimised for sharpest focus at widest apertures AND at closest shooting, but tries to provide absolutely everything: very wide aperture and very close focus ..but that gives more general blur and softness the wider and closer you go. The results can be charming, but you could almost use a $25 plastic lens. All the 11 pieces of glass in the Voigt move together as one chunk; it’s not optimised – unlike the Noctilux – to give the same sharpness at all apertures when focused *at different distances*. (In Leica’s Noctilux, the rearmost two pieces of glass move separately from the others when you focus at different distances to maintain absolute sharpness, always. The Voigt isn’t that sophisticated. But of course nor is it that price.)

Like Leica’s previous Noctiluxes (Noctiluces..?) and some other, older Leica 35mm lenses, this 0.95 Nokton has a bit of “focus creep” as you change the aperture. (The focus shifts back and forth a bit.) This is pretty unimportant if you’re hand-holding; you only have to cope with it re-focusing.. if the lens is on, say, a tripod – so I’ll dismiss the drift as immaterial.

Essentially, at its widest aperture – f0.95 – the Nokton puts an out-of-focus halo of blur around the region of sharpest focus, and that halo is comprised of the colours of the surrounding out-of-focus areas. The wider the aperture you use, the more this halo bleeds into the region of what should be sharpest focus, softening it. As the aperture is stopped down, though, this smear and bleed is quickly chopped away, leaving a region of really sharp focus ‘shining through’ and undiminished. But not at f0.95.

At maximum aperture this lens – like most others – also ‘vignettes’ the edges of the picture (the edges and corners appear darker; the centre appears brighter) so it emphasises, and draws your attention to, what’s in the middle. It almost looks as if it’s “pulling” light into the centre of the frame. But at its widest aperture the middle of the picture loses much of its detail and fine shading because the unfocused regions bleed into the detail that ought to be there. So at its max aperture (0.95) the results pull your eye into the centre of the picture, but there isn’t a lot of detail there to see.

Stopping it down from f0.95 to f2.8 de-emphasises the centre – and makes the middle more detailed, without that central “glow”. This gives sharp, but unremarkable pictures. In fact it looks no different than a similar shot taken with, say, any wide-aperture 50mm lens from twice the distance, for example the Voigtländer Leica-fit 50mm f1.7 (shorter and lighter than the m4/3 25mm f0.95, and only 2/3 the price).

A similar shot taken with Panasonic’s Lumix 20mm f1.7 lens is much sharper everywhere ..without the smearing of the 25mm at f0.95.. but without the remarkable ‘way-out-of-focus’ backgrounds which the 25mm Nokton can deliver on a small-sensor m4/3 camera.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

[pub 25 0.95] – Shot with the 25mm Nokton at 0.95; soft face in the centre, but the centre’s nice and bright, where the lens has “pulled the light in”. And the ‘smearing’ at 0.95 reduces any appearance of grain. GF1, ISO 800, 1/100th sec.

[pub 25 2.8] – Same shot at f2.8. Sharper, but with the centre now darkened and ‘flattened’ and underexposed, and hence ‘grainy’, so the face looks blotchy with noise which wasn’t visible in the smoother 0.95 shot. Coarse, like ‘Tri-X’ film. GF1, ISO 800, 1/50th sec.

[pub 50 1.7] – From the same distance, but with the Voigtländer *50mm* f1.5 Nokton (a 50mm low-light lens for Leicas) at f1.5. Similar ‘smoothness’ and out-of-focus blur or ‘bokeh’ as the Voigt 25mm 0.95 Nokton wide open. (Identical to cropping and enlarging the 25mm 0.95 shot, but without the ensuing resolution loss or pixellation.) GF1, ISO 800, 1/80th sec.


So it’s swings and roundabouts: in the 25mm Nokton’s favour..

(1) – Backgrounds disappear way out of focus at f0.95 other native (unconverted) m4/3 lens does this

(2) – Its “character” at f0.95 directs viewers’ eyes to the centre of the frame

(3) – It’s a cheap way to approximate the effect of an f0.95 Leica ‘Noctilux’

(4) – It focuses far closer (6.6 inches) than any other current lens for micro4/3

(5) – It has the greatest focusing range (∞ to 6.6 inches) of current m4/3 lenses

(6) – It gives a soft, smooth and unfussy ‘bokeh’ at f0.95

(7) – It’s a great ‘portrait’ lens, smoothly blurring the background, and not too sharp wide open

(8) – At its widest, but not its very closest, it gives pleasant “glowing” softness and can be stopped down for sharpness

(9) – Very appealing “glowing” pictures wide open, but not at its closest focus


..and against:


[a] – It’s sharp stopped down, but not at its very widest and simultaneously its closest – for $900

[b] – The genuine f0.95 ‘Noctilux’ is -w-a-y- sharper than this at 0.95 (..but costs $10,000)

[c] – At closest focus you’re lucky to get anything really sharp unless stopped down to f2.8, so why pay for f0.95?

[d] – It’s a long turn through 270º to adjust from infinity to 6.6 inches

[e] – Any 2nd-hand full-frame 50mm wide aperture lens + adaptor can give similar results for less cash

[Hy Pan 20mm] – Here’s what you get from the Panasonic 20mm ‘pancake’ kit lens at its closest and widest aperture;

[Hy Oly 50mm] – Same shot with an Olympus OM2 50mm lens on an m4/3 adaptor at its closest and widest aperture;

[Hy Voigt 25mm] – Same shot with the Voigtländer 25mm at its closest and its widest aperture.

(All at ISO 400, indoors, by window-light, all out-of-camera jpegs without any tweaking.)


Which one works best for you..?


It’s useful for “pulling focus” (manually adjusting the focus) when shooting VIDEO on an m4/3 camera, and for shooting m4/3 video in (almost) darkness and up very close.

For stills? The extra-wide f0.95 aperture gives soft results, extremely ‘smeared’ at its closest 6.6″ focus. For general photography you may be better off with a Leica-fit Voigtländer 50mm f1.5 Nokton – or something similar – with an m4/3 adaptor, unless you need exceptionally *CLOSE* shots with an m4/3 camera. A good 2nd-hand close-ish-focus 50mm (equivalent to 100mm on an m4/3) lets you crop afterwards to get a similar image to this 25mm at its closest. But this Voigt’s “..soft, smeared results..” may be what you want in a portrait lens (..unless you go for harsh, gritty realism).

‘Portrait’ lenses have traditionally been ‘soft’ – making wrinkles disappear – but they’ve been longer (had a longer focal length) than this ’25mm-behaves-as-a-50mm-on-m4/3′ in order to keep the perspective flattering (and not make noses look too big by being close to the camera), and to avoid the photographer’s intrusion into the other person’s space. Although it blurs the background, and gives soft results, this 25mm doesn’t let you step back away from your subject. To get a headshot that really fills the frame you’ve gotta stay pretty close. On the other hand, it puts a person ‘in context’ by showing some of their (blurred away) surroundings, too.

It MAY be just what you need, but it depends on what you like to shoot. Soft, contextualised portraits? Great! Harsh nitty gritty? No. Close-up sharp details? Yes, but only at f2.8 or smaller. The world in sharp focus? ..No: no point in paying extra for that 0.95 aperture.

If you’ve ever used a Pentax Spotmatic, well, that sums it up exactly; same feel, same old slow focus as an old Pentax SLR lens. It’s Nostalgia incarnate, but now ‘retro-fitted’ for use on any modern 4/3 camera!


More! Five shots, all almost the same, but with subtle differences (and I did move slightly between shots):

1 – [Cap Oly 50 1.2] Closest focus achievable with Olympus 50mm at f1.2, on an m4/3 adaptor. This behaves more like a telephoto lens, because when used on the small m4/3 sensor it’s equivalent to a 100mm f1.2. So its *perspective* is that of a slight telephoto lens.

2 – [Cap Voigt 25 0.95] Same photo, but shot from closer with the Voigt 25mm at f0.95 to show the Leica lens cap the same size, so the perspective is slightly different: the black smudges to the left of the lens cap (actually the strap of an M9) and the silver Konica lens behind the cap, and the black smudge to the right of the Leica cap (an iPad on the table) all come into the picture, or look a bit sharper. That’s because the Voigt 25mm has a *shorter focal length* than the 50mm of the previous shot.

3 – [Cap Pan 20 f1.7 man] Same photo, shot a bit closer still – to keep the lens cap the same size – with the Panasonic 20mm f1.7, focused manually, as autofocus won’t work this close. The background black smudges look sharper still because this is a even *shorter focal length*, and it’s a smaller aperture.

4 – [Cap Voigt 25 0.95 cu] Closest possible focus with the Voigt 25mm at f0.95. It fills the frame, and the background is all obscured, but it lacks contrast, ‘punch’ and sharpness. The black smudges at the left of the lens cap have pretty much dissolved away into ambient softness.

BELOW: Is that really worth $900, when the Olympus 50mm pic below, cropped to a quarter of its original size, is pretty much indistinguishable?


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

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

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

Feb 272011

Hi Steve,

I was out with my son yesterday afternoon. Kind of a dull day, lots of fog, coldish, wet. Mommy was home with a stomach bug so the two boys made sure the small town of Zug wasn’t save for a few hours.

I was running after him (he is 4 and on his first bike) when all of a sudden the sky broke up a bit. No wind, totally calm waters, and that scenery.

I ran to to lake shore, Elio just behind me. He stumbled with his bike and fell into a puddle. No worries, he pointed at the scenery and wanted to go swimming (!!??) :-))




Feb 262011

I know, I know…another X1 post! With all of the excitement of the upcoming Fuji X100 I am preparing for the showdown between it and the camera it is taking aim at, the Leica X1.  I have high hopes for the Fuji X100 but as I sit here looking at the samples posted online so far I am not 100% convinced that the file quality will have the same “snap” as that of the X1. I have been shooting the X1 again for the past few days and while it is still painfully slow at times, the IQ just can not be denied. I’ve been taking the little black X1 with me almost everywhere, even though I have not shot anything really worthwhile in the past week. Even so, the snapshots I have taken all have a brilliance and “shine” to them and when viewed at 100% the detail is pretty damn good for the size of this camera. This is all due to the sensor and the way Leica designed the X1 around it.

If Leica can speed up the AF (Auto Focus) to compete with even the slowest of the Micro 4/3 cameras then the X1 will be a force to be reckoned with, even with the X100 hot on it’s heels! How cool would it be if Leica released the new X1 firmware just before the X100 hit the shelves and the AF speed equaled  the X100? Doubtful, but you never can tell. It does seem that if Leica could have improved the AF speed of the X1 they would have done it already so even I am starting to have doubts.

Even with its slow and sluggish AF the lure of the Leica pulls me back in again and again.

Here are some quick snaps I shot today with 100% crops included. Be sure to click on the image for a closer look. One thing they all have in common is the crispness, detail and brilliance that I have not seen in ANY other compact to date. I am not saying other compact/big sensor cameras are no good, just that none have equaled the flat out IQ of the X1. I wonder of the X100 will be able to provide this level of quality out of the camera?

All of the images below include 100% crops embedded in the image.

You must click on the image to see it in larger size for the full 100% crop.

Also, ALL of these were converted from RAW in ACR and everything you see is out of camera in regards to color, etc.

So the question is this: Can the Fuji X100 beat or equal the file/image quality of the Leica X1? It just might, and if so the Fuji will be a slam dunk winner. If the image quality is not as good as the X1 we all know it will be a faster camera. We will have to ask ourselves if it is better to pay less for a faster, slightly larger camera, or better to have the ultimate IQ, even if it is dog slow. Also, the Fuji is coming in at $800 LESS than the X1 with a built in VF so even if it does not match the Leica IQ it will still be a fantastic camera IMO.

I’ve said it again and again…Leica, IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, get the AF to where it should be with the X1. If you can not, and eventually release an X2 then give it a manual lens with aperture dial, fast AF, and a built in viewfinder.

Personally, I adore the quality of the X1. I adore the body for its style, it’s feel, it’s size and light weight. I think the X1 looks better than the X100 and if the X1 had the speed it could be my only camera if need be. Hopefully I will have an X100 in my hands within 2 weeks as I am buying one blind. If it lives up to the hype I think Fuji will sell LOADS and LOADS of the X100. Hell, I think they will sell loads and loads of them regardless. Classic design, classic feel, Fuji colors, Hybrid VF, F2 lens…so far so good.

I’m starting to get excited for its release….can you feel it?

The black X1 is gorgeous though and it feels SO good when strapped around you with the included Leather strap. It seems to fit flush against my body and I hardly notice it is even there :) I bought my black X1 from Ken Hansen. He has one or two more in stock if anyone is interested. Even with the X100 nearing, If the new X1 firmware comes out and speeds up the AF to a decent level I have a feeling the X1 will start selling out again! It is a Leica after all and for some of us, that red dot is hard to pass by.

More from the X1…just snaps…

This next one was shot back in 2009 when I first reviewed the X1. It says a lot that here I am in 2011 and I just bought myself the X1 even with all of these new cameras available.

This one was at ISO 1000, f/2.8, handheld inside a church with very low light. Look at the brilliance and look of the image when you click for a larger view. This is the X1 quality that I do not see in other small body cameras.


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

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

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

Feb 252011

From Steve: TGIF! Here are two photos that were entered into the M9 contest that were in my top 20 folder. I thought the portrait was so good it should at least be in a daily inspiration so I asked Francesco if I could post them today and he said was happy to share them. Thanks Francesco!

15th January 2011


Monreale, Sicily

At the highest summit of the Cathedral of Monreale, I met this man.

He was from Saint Petersburg and spoke no English and no Italian, only Russian. He also wore no shoes, only socks.

In a surreal spark, he grabbed me gently but firmly by the arm and with the most indecipherable gaze proceeded to sing to me “Mamma”, a 1940 song made famous by Beniamino Gigli.

His ways were mellow and he knew every single word by heart, in flawless Italian!

About me and my passion for photography:
I fell in love with photography rather late, in my mid twenties. In truth she had already flirted with me as a shy teenager, but I was 24 when she really bit me.
“Learn to love me” – photography whispered to me one day – “and you will learn to love everything”.

It took years but when I was ready she introduced me to the Leica M4 of a friend. “This camera is special” – she said. “she will do exactly what you ask her to. Her glass will never fail you, not even wide open or in the most difficult of situations. She is quiet and she is fast. She is free of vibrations and she will never distract you from my essence in any way. You have learnt to see how I see, now you are ready: raise your eye to this viewfinder and see how you had forgotten to see”.

Years went by. I eventually managed to buy an M6 with a Summicron and loved them both very very much. One day unfortunately I was forced to sell them, and regretted it ever since. The man who bought them from me was an old gentleman dealer from Barcelona who had devoted his entire life to photography. Seeing how much I loved my camera, he almost cried. He was a great man.

Photography evolved and brought digital. There are many great cameras out there. I now own a little Ricoh GRD2 which is great for taking visual notes. I enjoy pushing it to its limits and it has helped me develop a more fluid approach to framing. A friend lent me his D300 to shoot the images for this contest but the feeling is simply not there with a DSLR. At least not for me. The M9 is the ultimate digital camera for the style of photography that I love. If I win I would like to use this camera to bring happiness into people’s lives by taking great pictures of the people I meet and giving them out for free.

Feb 242011

Hey Steve,

Just thought I’d send off a few pics from a recent visit to Istanbul with M9, the first with my Summicron 35mm f2.0 and the second two with my favourite lens, the trusty Voigt 50 f1.1. I hope they make the cut! The full set can be found here:

Keep up the excellent work. I’ve enjoyed the amazing entries into your M9 competition. There’s such talent amongst you readers.

Take care,


Feb 242011

I’m a sucker for apps on the Iphone that turn your cel phone photos into funky, lo-fi classic images. I downloaded them all and while they are usually fun for a while they seem to grow old really quick. Maybe it is due to being a phone app or maybe it is because it’s just a gimmick but there is always something that draws me back in…ahh, such is life for a photo and camera AND software nut!

So here I am in that funky “lo-fi” mood again so I discovered and downloaded some interesting software onto my Imac that turns any photo on your computer into fun, freaky, or beautiful works of art using oddball presets to mimic old film, diana and holga cameras, and all of the coolness that is LO-FI!

In fact, it is called LO-FI and is from a company called “Wingnut”. What is cool is that it is the consumer division of Alien Skin, the makers of Exposure 3 (that I use ALL of the time)  and you can download a free demo trial HERE for Windows or Max OSX. Here is a video that explains the software.

This is a “FUN” piece of software and is actually called an “APP”. $29 gets you a cool and fun interface that looks like the back of a digital camera. All you have to do is drag the image into the LCD screen and  then you can choose your film stock, your “look” and your frame. Very easy. You can also do the random thing by pushing a button and having the app pick a trio of looks for you.

When you find the look you like for a particular photo you can save it or send it to facebook or Flickr with one click. Lo-Fi only works with JPEGs but this is an app that is all about fun and fun it is. Will it last? Well, the fun will probably die down after a couple of days but I will come back to this one again there is no doubt. I’m always finding a photo that could use a little bit of that “Lo-Fi” goodness!

I’ve tried a couple of desktop apps that do the same thing as this one but never wrote about them as I did not really enjoy them all too much. Lo-Fi makes it easy, fun and smooth.

Below are some samples all done using the “random” button in the app! You never know what you will get. This is available for Windows as well as Mac. It is NOT a plug in but a stand alone “app”. If it looks like fun, you can download the FREE demo here. If you end up liking it then be prepared to shell out $29 smackers for it. Not bad for so much fun. :) All samples below were taken today on my new Leica X1 (well, 90% of them..two were from months ago with a different X1, and one is from the NEX-5). Yep, I caved and bought a new X1 this week, this time in black W/Viewfinder from Ken Hansen. Besides, I will need one when I do my “Shootout in Tombstone, AZ” with the X1 and X100! Enjoy!

As always, click any image for a larger, crisper and better view!

Feb 232011

Are you guys ready to see who the winner is in the M9 contest? I know at least 15 of you are ready for the announcement! Ha ha…

ALL 15 of the top entrants are being looked over THIS week by Heidi Klum and Rankin. The winner could come at any time but no later than March 1st, so check back daily to see if I have posted it!

I also wanted to clear something up for those that thought this was a documentary or reportage contest. I though the rules were clear that it was about telling a story..a narrative. I’m still getting e-mails about how some of the finalists appear to be “set-up”. Of course some of them are! They are telling a story! There was no rule stating the story had to be real or any kind of HCB kind of story. I welcomed “set-up” shots and the 15 that you see on the top 15 page are the best of what was submitted. If there were any “real” stories that were submitted that were better than what you see posted they would have been in the top 15. Just wanted to make sure everyone realized that “set-up” photo narratives were allowed.

To see some of the other entries be sure and check out the official contest Flickr stream where those who entered can post their submissions for all to see. Many GREAT photos there so be sure to check it out or even post your entry!

To the top 15…I wish you ALL good luck. Sure, I have my faves but I am not judging this time!

Finally, let us thank Seal once again for donating his personal Leica M9 for this contest. Be sure to check out his official site HERE (tour starts soon!) and also see him on where you can follow his daily activities through his photos. Heidi and Rankin are also on picortwo so you can also follow them!

So…are you guys ready for another contest?

Feb 232011

Steve, I’ve been reading your site for a few months now and have gotten a lot from it – many thanks! I’ve just bought an M9 and am waiting for a Summilux 35mm! My name’s Alisdair Jones from Toronto Canada and I’m a graphic designer/ animator who loves to shoot. I took all these shots one morning a few weeks back in a snow storm. The snow was coming down so heavily, I had my camera wrapped in a plastic bag:

All these shots were taken with a Canon 5D2 and an EF50mm f/1.2L lens – all shot wide open at f1.2. They were all converted to black and white with the Silver Efex Pro plug-in in Aperture. There’s full Exif data available in the shots themselves.

I’ve got a MobileMe gallery here:

And a Flickr photostream here:

Cheers, Alisdair

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