Aug 072011
 

Chaiten; a town digging itself out of the ash.

On May 2nd of 2008, after 9000 plus years, a volcano erupted near the town of Chaiten in Patagonia, Chile. The more than 4000 people who made their lives in this  small town had their lives changed dramatically. The Chilean government temporarily evacuated all the people to other various towns as far away as 200 miles.

A few weeks after the eruption, during heavy rains, the Rio Chaiten which was plugged up with debris and ash, suddenly produced a enormous Lahar (ash/mud slide) flooding 2/3 of the town and swept away many of its houses.

The Chilean Government declared that “the town of Chaiten is destroyed and uninhabitable “. The people of Chaiten were not allowed to return to their homes,  but rather only take a few of their belongings.  They could no longer live in their homes because they were deemed unsafe.

The plan was to build a new Chaiten, north of the old town, protected from the volcano by the mountains. Fifty or so citizens, however, refused to leave their houses and businesses that they had worked for their whole lives. Instead, they persevered;

They dug out their houses, cleaned off their inventory, put in small generators and put water tanks on their roofs that they filled with water from a nearby creek (unaffected by the volcano) and tried to stay open for business.

For two long years following the eruption, these people were left to their own devices of trying to rebuild their lives. They felt that the government had forgotten about them and their town as well as the 4000 other people of Chaiten-now living in various other towns in Patagonia.

Then, finally, as it only can happen in South America, in January of 2011 the Chilean government decided to restore the old town and not to build a new town. New electricity lines were put in and water supply was restored to the houses. Slowly but surely the former citizen of Chaiten are starting to return and things are finally looking up for the town of Chaiten and its people.

Below are a few of the photos I took of Chaiten during the last few years.

Aug 042011
 

The Olympus E-P3 and 12mm f/2 lens Review

By Steve Huff

I can not believe I am sitting here writing a review for the new Olympus E-P3. Why? Well, it seems like just a few days go that I was writing about the E-P1 and then the E-P2, man…how time flies by!

Here we are with an E-P3 already and this time Olympus seems to have a semi-winner (more on that statement later). The camera has gone through some cosmetic changes, has gotten some speed enhancements, a couple of new “pro” style lenses, a touch screen OLED display, a built in flash, and a few other new things like high ISO capability and added Art filter effects. Olympus calls the sensor “new” but the image quality is just about exactly the same as the E-P1 and E-P2, so not so sure what the new sensor has added besides speed and higher ISO.

NOTE: ALL images in the review are OUT OF CAMERA JPEGS. NO RAW files were used because at the time of this writing there was no way to convert the RAW’s using Photoshop or Lightroom (what I use).

CLICK ON IMAGES TO SEE THEM HOW THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE SEEN!

Chicago 2011 – E-P3, 12mm, f/2

Some argue it has better Dynamic Range but honestly, I have not seen anything different while shooting. Others say it has better color. I beg to differ. In fact, I think it has the same color as the E-P2 and E-P1, both of which had that “Olympus” color style. The E-P3 is no different.

As most of you may know, I was and still am a huge fan of the E-P2 and my one and only wish for an E-P3 was for a built in EVF. Something like the one in the Fuji X100 would have been sweet, but it appears Olympus has decided they want to still sell the external EVF which makes the camera all huge and much less portable. Hell, I have been wishing for a built in EVF since the E-P1! I feel that something like a nice and solid metal built E PEN series camera with a built in EVF would be a camera to contend with. Also, a swivel LCD like they have put in the new E-Pl3 camera that is coming out soon. THIS, to me, would have made me sell all of my cameras (besides  the M9-P) and just keep the PEN as my take anywhere compact.

STATEMENT: All images in this review were shot as in camera JPEGS. No RAW images were used because at the time of this writing, lightroom or photoshop could not read the E-P3 RAW files.

The E-P3 with the 12mm lens. Shot my son Brandon on an Airplane as we travelled to Chicago. 

E-P3. NEW SENSOR OR SAME SENSOR?

I have been shooting with the E-P3 and new 12mm f/2 lens for a while now and can say with 100% confidence that this is the best PEN camera and best Micro 4/3 lens to date. It is indeed an improvement to the E-P2 in many ways but it seemed at first that they were using the same old 12MP sensor (with new tropic 6 processing) that they used in the E-P1 and E-P2. It seems some websites are saying the sensor is new, and others are saying it is the same. I finally saw this from Olympus:

“The Olympus PEN E-P3 uses a variety of features to achieve speed rivaling that of the professional Olympus E-5 DSLR. Focus and shoot faster with the camera’s new 12.3-megapixel Live MOS Image Sensor, TruePic VI Image Processor and new FAST AF Tracking System. The Olympus PEN E-P3 offers 35 separate focus points spread over nearly the entire sensor, enabling the camera to pin-point focus accuracy on small subjects wherever they appear in the frame. Selectable 3×3 groups within the 35-point area are especially effective when shooting active subjects. The camera’s fast shutter response time ensures that you will never miss the shot, even in the toughest shooting environments.”

So this appears to be a new sensor this time around but the IQ seems about the same as the previous PEN cameras which means that you will still get better image quality from the APS-C and full frame sensor cameras.

“Thats Hot” – This is the comment I get the most when I take out this set…

I’m getting great quality though but in my opinion, what is bringing the IQ of the PEN series up is this new 12mm lens BUT as I just stated, the overall IQ of the E-P3 is NOT up there with APS-C sized sensor cameras, though it is the best IQ I have seen in an Oly PEN camera. As for the new 12mm,  I have not done any scientific testing (I never do) but from the real world photos I have seen so far, it is sharp corner to corner, has great color and contrast, and has much better build and feel than any previous M4/3 lens. The silver looks stunning on the camera and the manual focus is smooth as butter (though still fly by wire). Even though it is expensive and IMO, $200 more than it should be, this new lens is a reason to buy the E-P3, it is indeed pretty slick.

I STILL LOOOVVVEE the built in Grainy Black & White art filter! This gives you a great almost film like B&W right out of camera. This was shot with the 12mm wide open at f/2 – click image for larger view!

The bottom line after my research shows that this IS indeed a new Live MOS sensor. As stated though, I am not sure what the new sensor brings to the table besides the speed and ISO enhancements. It is still 12MP and still giving us about the same image quality. The upgrades of the E-P3 are in its speed, startup time, OLED touch screen display, on board flash, new grip, art filter additions, etc.

More from Olympus…

Outstanding New Features:

  • 12.3 MP Live MOS Sensor – Utilizing new Fine Detail Processing Technology for greater detail in the photograph, the sensor is optimized to maximize the performance of all M. Zuiko digital lenses in all shooting conditions;
  • TruePic VI Image Processor – This new image engine, designed specifically for the Olympus PEN, features Real Color Technology for improved color reproduction and faster speeds;
  • FAST AF – To meet the demand for focusing speed, Olympus has introduced the new FAST AF Tracking System. The FAST AF Tracking System features 35 focus points as well as new Tracking AF to ensure fast & accurate focus each and every time;
  • Low Light Performance – AF Illuminator / Built In Flash / ISO to 12,800;
  • Fast Shutter Response – Never miss a shot again with fast shutter response time of less than 60 milliseconds;
  • Full HD Movie – Shoot up to 29 minutes of full 1080i HD video in either AVCHD or AVI formats; and
  • 3-inch 614,000 pixel OLED Touch screen – Bright high-resolution screen features a newly-designed touch interface that provides an innovative touch display solution.

THE WORLDS FASTEST AUTO FOCUS!?!? This is what Olympus claims!

The auto focus is indeed blazing fast with the new 12mm f/2 lens and is some of the fastest AF I have seen in any camera PERIOD! Remember the slow AF of the E-P1 and E-P2? Well, no more! The AF on the E-P3 is almost instant (when using the 12mm) and now passes the Panasonic equivalents. From what I understand though this is all lens dependent. The new lenses like the 12mm and 45 1.8 will focus fast on the E-P3 but slower on the E-P1 and E-P2. The older lenses will have some improvement on the E-P3 but they won’t be blazing like the new lenses.

The blazing AF at work…f/4 with the 12mm and E-P3 – The AF is almost instantaneous.

So to get the most out of the super fast AF, you will need the newest lenses with the E-P3. The new kit zoom also focuses fast, and is smaller (and cheaper feeling) than the previous versions. Olympus claims this 35 point AF system is the fastest in the world and the E-P3 shares the same AF speed as their flagship 4/3 DSLR, the E-5. In good light, the AF is wicked fast. As the light gets lower the AF slows down a bit but I have NO complaints at all with the AF. It is FAST and accurate. I have not had one shot out of focus with the E-P3!

You can set the camera to use all 35 AF points or you can do what I do and use the center point only. I ALWAYS use the center point because when I use multiple focus points what I want in focus is never in focus as the camera chooses something else to focus on.

E-P3, 12mm, f/4

12mm at f/2 indoor mid-day

 

The Olympus PEN Matures

They say the 3rd time is the charm and I have no doubt the next “pro” PEN will be even better than this one but it seems to me that the system as a whole is maturing. We finally have a sleek sexy body with fast AF, we are finally getting some amazing lenses like the SUPERB 12mm f/2, the $399 45 1.8 and the Panasonic/Leica 25 Summilux 1.4. Even the Olympus 14-150 is a great lens.

Panasonic recently released the new micro 4/3 G3 which I played around with a bit but was totally un-interested in due to the cheap feel and body style. In fact, I preferred the G2 to the GH2 and G3. It seems to me that Panasonic is going backwards after the superb GF1 and G2, but that is just my opinion. Olympus seems to be heading forward, at least with the E-P3.

Again, the grainy B&W mode gives us greg B&W tones direct from camera. I do not mind the grain. Perfection is over rated :)

The PEN series are all MICRO 4/3 cameras!

For those who found this review on google while searching for Olympus E-P3 info, the E-P3 is a micro 4/3 camera, which means the sensor size is a 4/3 sensor. This is the standard for these cameras and there are always limitations with the smaller than APS-C or full frame sensor. Usually these 4/3 cameras lack in Dynamic Range and high ISO shooting but they make up for it with small size, small lenses, and great quality. There is also a huge fun factor involved with the PEN series and I find it much more fun to shoot than the Sony NEX-5, Ricoh GXR, and yes, even the Fuji X100. The E-P3 is also getting much closer to the quality of APS-C sensors with what appears to be improved DR and high ISO noise performance. I guess the “tweaked” sensor paid off somewhat!

The other reason the E-P3 is so much fun is because when you hold it, there is a feeling of quality and with the 12mm lens it is a beautiful looking combo. The speed of the camera and lens also lends itself well to street shooting, wether using AF or the Manual Focus snap feature. THIS COMBO is better than any other combo in the M4/3 arena, if you can deal with a wide 24m equivalent lens.

Here is my 1st look video that I recently posted that shows the camera and lens in more detail.

Quality of the E-P3 with 12mm Lens, it is SUPERB!

FULL SIZE OUT OF CAMERA JPEG – 12mm f/2 – click image for the full size JPEG

At the park… – 12mm, wide open! The White Balance and color is great, OOC JPEG!

f/2.2

Up close you do get some slight barrel distortion but remember that this is a really wide angle lens! The character of the lens is sharp, medium contrast, and with gorgeous color. The shot below is another in B&W mode but shows the distortion you can expect when shooting up close.

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The 12mm at f/4

and this time at f/5.6…

The expensive $799 12mm lens Olympus has released is a beautiful lens, and actually pushes the limits of the E-P3 sensor. The build is nice but it is not Leica like. It is more Zeiss ZM like but much nicer in build and looks than ANY other Micro 4/3 lens to date. The silver color and all metal build is striking on the camera and while reviewing this camera and lens combo, I was approached a few times by people asking me what this cool camera was I was carrying. It is after all a VERY lovely looking piece of kit.

As for you guys, the questions I have been getting in my e-mail inbox is “Is this a good buy for $799?”, “Is the lens worth the high cost?”, and “how is the quality of this lens?”

The answer to these questions is simple. The price of $799, I feel, is a bit much. I think if Olympus released this at $599 it would be been a home run MUST BUY hit. At $799 it is a but much BUT, it is IMO the best lens made for Micro 4/3 to date. It has super fast focus for still AND silent fast focus for video. It’s build is solid and metal but the lens is still light, the manual focus feature where you snap the focus ring back for manual and to the front for full AF is genius. It seems like a wonderful street lens…leagues better than the kit zoom or 17mm. BUT for much less you can buy the wonderful Panasonic 14mm (my review of that lens on the E-P2 is HERE).

There is no question that this lens is a great quality piece of glass, BUT again…for $329 you can buy the Panasonic 14mm (28mm equivalent) and it is also a fantastic lens. Not as slick looking, not as fast of AF, not as wide (4mm equiv difference) and not as nicely built but it is $329 vs $799. Still, if money is not of a concern I would buy the Olympus 12mm lens if you are buying the E-P3. Me, personally, I would choose the 12mm just for that extra 4mm AND the snap focus feature that turns it from an Auto Focus to Manual Focus lens in an instant but I enjoy QUALITY camera gear as this is my #1 hobby AND my job. Nice gear inspires me  to shoot it. This lens is no different. Quality wise, I have ZERO complaints with this 12mm lens. If you have the funds and want the coolest lens for your E-P camera and want a wide angle 24mm equivalent, then GO FOR IT! B&H seems to have it in sock most of the time HERE. Remember, every single image in this review was shot with the 12mm and E-P3.

My Mother who has more energy than me hoola hooping in the street…

Up close to some fresh baked Banana Bread :)

Shot at f/2, colors right of the camera

Wide open once again but up close – This lens can focus down to 0.2 meters!

High ISO Performance

One (slight) improvement of the E-P3 is that Olympus now gives us the opportunity to crank up to ISO 12,800 like the big gun SLR’s. Yes, 12,800! BUT… usually these cameras are not usable at these crazy high ISO’s (and the E-P3 is no different). The only camera I ever seen with truly incredible high ISO performance is the super pro Nikon D3s. With that said, the E-P3 does seem to do a little better at higher ISO… better than I see from the E-P2. It appears that in the JPEGS the camera does some aggressive Noise Reduction and many times the images are soft and somewhat smudgy. The lower the light of course, the more smudgy the results. But isn’t this the time when we want to use HIGH ISO the most?

Below are a few samples at higher ISO…make sure you click an image for a much larger view…

ISO 1600 – Panasonic 20 1.7 at 1.7 – Candle Light was the only light source – Converted from RAW

ISO 1250 – f/2 – click for larger

ISO 1600 – f/2 – click for larger and to see 100% crop

ISO 6400 – f/2 – click for larger

ISO 1600, f/2

TURN OFF THE IN CAMERA NOISE REDUCTION FOR MORE DETAIL IN YOUR HIGH ISO SHOTS!

ISO 3200 with NR turned OFF. Click images for larger view.

Below: ISO 12,800 – No noise reduction!

Overall I see an improvement over the E-P2, and just to have a somewhat usable ISO 6400 mode on the PEN is an achievment in itself. Not sure how much Olympus can further push the envelope with the Micro 4/3 sensor format but this is about as good as I have seen it. Bravo!

The E-P3 and 1080 HD Video. Is it better than the E-P2?

The video of the E-P2 was good. 720P HD quality was good enough for me but the new E-P3 raises the game with 1080 HD video recording. The only problem is that the video now has the JELLO effect if you shake the camera even a little bit. I mean, if you move the camera too much when recording video the effect is pronounced. I will upload a video here in the next day or two to show you this effect. If you plan on shooting video, I would recommend using a tripod or keep it REALLY steady when handheld or else you will get the odd effects that most DSLRS give you.

Other than that the video quality is really superb. Check out the clip below, and check out the lower light stuff where I shot some stuff at the Aquarium in Chicago.

UPDATE! If you turn off the in camera I.S. the Jello effect pretty much goes away. Here is another video of samples, including a low light sample.


The famous Olympus “ART FILTERS”!

The E-P1 had the 1st Art Filters from Olympus. The E-P2 expanded on these and now the E-P3 expands on them even more! We now have a slew of them with some old favorites and new twists on the old favorites.

The included filters are: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale and Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Gentle Sepia, Cross Process, Dramatic Tone.

My favorite is still the grainy B&W and that is really the only filter I use with the PEN. I occasionally will use the Cross Process or Dramatic Tone but for me, the Grainy B&W is THE Art Filter to use! Here are a few shots using some of the filters..

DIORAMA

POP ART with Pinhole effect added

PINHOLE

One with the kit zoom…

STREET shooting with the E-P3 and 12mm f/2 lens. 

I took the E-P3 and 12mm with me for my 24 hour Las Vegas trip where I was reviewing the new Sony NEX-C3 but I have to admit, I had MUCH more fun with the E-P3 and 12mm. The E-P3 is a joy to use, hold and shoot. The AF is lightning fast and when walking the streets it is so fast you can just raise and shoot. I tested it out in combination with the B&W Art Filter which makes for a nice gritty rendering. I feel the 12mm makes for a GREAT street lens though it can be a bit wide, making you get up close and personal with your subject. I would rather shoot the E-P3 for this kind of shooting over just about any other small format camera. Yes, over the NEX, the Panasonic GF series, etc. I can’t stress enough how awesome the 12mm f.2 lens is. Expensive but for me, well worth it. I kept my review samples of the E-P3 and 12mm, and yes I paid full price. That right there says it all.

Also, the manual snap feature of the 12mm is AMAZING! I had the camera set at 4 feet for some shots and the camera was REALLY instantaneous as it didn’t even have to AF. If I wanted my 4 foot pre-set distance I would just pull the focus ring back. If i wanted my AF back I would push it back forward. This is a genius implementation and what makes the 12mm lens worth owning.

Some samples, click for larger. All shot at night and all should be wide open at f/2

A quick comparison of the 12mm f/2 vs the Sony NEX-C3 and 16mm – Both 24mm Equivilant lenses

I had a Sony NEX C3 here for a few days and did a quick comparison snapshot with it and the 16mm kit lens, which is also a 24mm equivalent. Many were telling me that the C3 had better corner performance, even with the kit lenses and from what i found after taking about 30 comparison shots is that it does NOT have any improvement over the NEX-3 or 5 in regards to corner sharpness with the kit lenses. Below are two shots. One taken with the NEX-C3 and 16mm at 2.8 and the other with the E-P3 and 12mm at 2.8. The NEX C3 and 16 has the soft blurred corners that we saw with the NEX 3 and 5 and this lens. The E-P3 is share corner to corner.

and a 100% crop – YOU MUST click the image for the larger size and full 100% crop view

My eyes are telling me that the Olympus is kicking the pants off of the NEX in this test, but it should! The E-P3 and 12mm combo is $1700. The NEX-C3 is $599, and the Sony 16mm is known for being soft. I just wanted to show this so people do not thing the NEX C3 is giving better corner performance with the kit lenses. Still soft as ever. If you stop down the 16,, to 5.6 it sharpens up nicely but at 2.8 it is soft.

The E-P3 vs all the others…and the bottom line conclusion.

I KNOW I will get asked “Which one should I buy”?, or “Is the E-P3 worth the upgrade from an E-P2”? Well, in comparison to the Fuji X100 or Ricoh GXR system with 28mm 2.5 module, the E-P3 with 12mm lens is more expensive than either. The Fuji comes in at $1199 while you can snag the beautiful Ricoh & 28 for $950 or so. The E-P3 with the 12mm lens is coming in at $899 plus $799 for a total of $1600. Quite pricey for a micro 4/3 camera system. Maybe this is why I felt that the Panasonic G3 seemed “cheap”…(because it is priced much lower).

The E-P3 is a camera like no other though. When I shoot with any PEN camera I have FUN. The camera inspires me to take it with me at all times. Its small, sleek, thin and light. The out of camera JPEGS are very good and many times I shoot it just with the B&W art filter as I really love the look it gives. But the big question is IMAGE QUALITY! How does the E-P3 compare to the other cameras? Well, in all reality it is up there and close but you will still get better overall image quality from the X100, X1, and Ricoh GXR. You will get a bit better Dynamic Range from the larger sensors as well but I can say that with all of the new enhancements in the E-P3, this is the best micro 4/3 camera to date…IN MY OPINION. The Dynamic Range of the E-P3 is the best of the Micro 4/3 cameras I have seen to date, in real world use, not charts.

The high ISO capability is indeed better, the camera is MUCH MUCH faster, the new OLED display is gorgeous (though can have a green tint when looked at on an angle), and I think that the new 12mm lens is the best M4/3 lens to date. If you are invested in the Micro 4/3 system then this camera is a worthy upgrade to all of the PEN cameras that came before it. This IS the PEN Flagship (at the time of this writing) so if you have an E-P1 it is 100% worth the upgrade. If you have an E-P2 you have to ask yourself if all of the new features and speed is worth the upgrade cost. I think it is.  The new flash, the touch screen (which is actually pretty damn cool), the new dual core processor for speed, the new true pic 6 engine that allows for better processing and higher ISO use, and the new Olympus made sensor that while is still 12MP, does offer some improvements, again in ISO, Dynamic Range and color.

I have not yet been able to process any RAW files so it is tough to see if the DR is enhanced much over the E-P2 (I could easily tell with a RAW file). The bottom line is that the new E-P3 and 12mm lens is as good as it gets in the Micro 4/3 world for taking photos in every area. Body style, build, and output. Period!

Out of camera JPEG/Color!

UPDATE AFTER SHOOTING MORE WITH THE E-P3, AND buying my review sample!

So I have now had the E-P3 for a while and have been shooting with it EVERY DAY. Yes, even my Leica M9P has been sitting lonely on the shelf and today as I drove around with E-P3 in hand I asked myself what the heck I was doing? I have this work of art camera at home, the camera I adore and love, but I had been bringing out the E-P3 and 12mm with me every where instead! As I pondered the question I knew the answer but did not want to admit it or say it aloud. I mean, I am preferring taking out the little half frame E-P3 over m gorgeous and new $8,000 M9-P and the worlds best 50, the Leica 5o Summilux? Well, for the past 3 weeks I have indeed been enjoying the E-P3 more and I will tell you why.

  1. It’s SO small and light, even more so than the M9.
  2. It’s so quick and easy. I can raise the camera at any time and it focuses and fires almost instantly.
  3. The IQ is not up to the M9 league, no way…BUT it is VERY good and for my “snapshots” and family stuff it is more than enough.
  4. I can shoot JPEG and get superb quality! No messing with RAW files.
  5. It’s 12 MP, so the files are fast and easy to work with.
  6. The 12mm is one damn fine lens all the way around. After using it more and more I find it is worth the asking price. Not one regret in buying it. (though my wallet says otherwise)
  7. The out of camera color, in the right lighting is stellar. Auto white balance is the best Ive seen in any M4/3 cam as is exposure. Wow.
  8. MOVIES! I have been shooting more personal video lately and may actually do a whole project/mini documentary with the E-P3, 12mm, 25 1.4, and 45 1.8.
  9. The cool factor is also there in its look, feel…this IS the best Micro 4/3 camera to date IN MY OPINION!
Now, with all of that out of the way let me state that my M9P is still my favorite camera of all time. When I pick it up and shoot it always delivers super rich and deep files. BUT for my daily snaps, it is not needed so I am finding having a 2nd camera like the E-P3 is a perfect addition to my stable. So much so, I let go of my NEX-5 and my Ricoh GXR. I do have a feeling the new Sony NEX-7 will get me but for now I am having a love affair with my E-P3 and 12mm and looking forward to the 45 1.8 and 25 1.4. The camera is not perfect, it doesn’t do low light as good as the bigger sensors but for what it is, with it’s size, speed, features, quality and style..it is simply a super recommended camera. If you bought one you would not be sorry and if you were, that is what return policies are for :)

WHERE TO BUY?

If you want to buy one, B&H sells them in Black, white and silver. They also sell the 12MM lens. If you get one, let me know how you like it!

PROS AND CONS OF THE E-P3 AND THE 12MM F/2 LENS

PROS:

  • Loaded with new features over the E-P2!
  • SUPER fast AF, finally! 35 point AF is a screamer! (with newest lenses)
  • New built in flash
  • New OLED Touch Screen Display
  • New Dual Core Processor
  • New Sensor
  • Better HIGH ISO performance
  • Still the same great E-P build and style
  • Added video record button
  • Added 1080 HD Recording
  • Mode dial now on the right with other controls
  • Olympus finally releasing “pro” lenses
  • New 12mm is best M4/3 lens to date in fit, finish, and performance
  • New menu system is clean and easy to navigate
  • Seems like it has better Dynamic Range
CONS:
  • Expensive with the 12mm lens, but not so bad with the kit zoom at $899.
  • No built in EVF included. Again.
  • No tilt/swivel LCD..again.
  • High ISO can get a but smudgy but color stays good, turn off noise reduction for best results.
  • Battery lasts for about 300 shots due to new focus system eating up the battery life.
  • Jello effect in video is pretty pronounced this time around but if you turn off IS it goes away.
  • Even with the new Dual Core processor, it is still choppy when recording video using some art filters (like B&W)
E-P3 and Zeiss ZM Sonnar at 1.5 (with an adapter)
E-P3 and SLR Magic 12mm 1.6 at 1.6

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Aug 022011
 

The Road to Somewhere Else by Donald Barnat

“I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.” – ‘Shug’ Avery in The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I-15, the highway to and from Las Vegas, is traveled by an endless caravan of Southern Californians every year, alternately speeding and crawling their way to Sin City to pass the hours into weekends throwing money away in smoky casinos. With the disposable income gone and the pool parties over, the line of cars moving back through the desert to Los Angeles is most impressive in the sheer single-minded execution of its purpose. Eyes fixed (we can only hope) on the road ahead, it’s pretty clear that everyone just wants to get home.

The setting of this perpetual movement of cars and people is what calls to mind The Color Purple thought quoted above. More on that setting in a second.

But first, does God really get pissed off when we pass by the color purple without noticing? For an athe-nostic like me, the question would go more like this: if nature has created something spectacular to behold, what does it say about us if we routinely pass by it all with our eyes squarely focused on the road ahead, our perspectives blinkered by our desire to simply get someplace else?

Whether it’s an angry God watching down on us or the collective guilt of too few of us, given the sheer magnitude of both the transgression and the number of souls involved, the 270-mile drive between Las Vegas and Los Angeles — through the Cajon pass and over the Mojave Desert — would surely amount to something of a worst-case-scenario for someone as thoughtful about such things as the fictional Suge Avery.

The vast empty expanse of the high desert alone has a visual silence that borders on the metaphysical. One turn of the head and the eye takes in endless vistas completely absent the presence of humans. Appropriately miniscule in scale, the only people to be found are contained in the narrow band of highway snaking through the midst of a truly timeless landscape.

Drivers blow through the desert as fast as they can. Except for a few small towns, there’s only a smattering of rest areas along the way and the occasional supersized gas stations. With nothing really for hundreds of miles but great scenery, it would be difficult for anyone inclined to deviate from the beeline of automobiles to actually do so.

We take the drive ourselves just about every year, always in the winter or late spring. There’s usually weather off in the distance and sometimes we run right into it. We stop occasionally at one of the rest areas for 10 minutes or so, in a hurry, like everyone else. There’s a wind that seems to live at those huge gas stations that can’t in good conscience be called a breeze and, while the cold smack of it after two hours on the road is exhilarating, it always feels really good to get back in the car.

There were the familiar clouds, rain, even thunder, and snow on the ground in the mountain passes, but this time driving through the higher altitudes there was the disorienting sight of even more ominous looking clouds lying in the valleys far below the highway. There was sunshine, maybe mostly sunshine and, of course, the wind. Not surprisingly the air smells like desert and I guess to recall the old vent windows in cars from my childhood, I like to open my driver’s side glass just a crack to hear the whistle of the wind as I drive.

Maybe it’s too much of the things we did back in the seventies, but my imagination plays in the flat desert and hills there in the wide panorama shot. I’d like to hire a helicopter and tell the pilot to set down in the hills underneath the clouds in the left part of the image, get out, take pictures for a while, breathing in the desert, then point to a sun-drenched valley in the distance and say, “Okay, let’s go over there.”

I’m not a natural scenery shooter and I think the snapshots presented here will attest to that. I hesitate to add that the Leica M system of cameras is said not to be well-suited for landscape photography. The hesitation is because the M7 was more than adequate given my capabilities.

I hope these shots from the California high desert find you in a place and time where you can take notice of its incredible beauty. With most of the country sweltering in a mid-July heat wave it would be wonderful if this article even briefly transports some of you to the brisk springtime captured in the photographs here. If you try, you just might hear the wind whistling at my car window and imagine for a moment the cold desert air in your face.

Remember, God may be watching. Personally, I don’t think so, but I’ve been wrong before and these shots and this piece amount to my own personal penance just in case.

All the images taken with a Leica M7, Voightlander Nokton 40mm 1.4, and Kodak Portra 160 VC.

Aug 012011
 
How to Save a “Throwaway Shot”
 
By Ashwin Rao
 
Hello, my fellow Huffites, it’s Ashwin again, coming fresh off the excitement-packed Seattle 2011 Photo Workshop. Steve, Roger Paperno, Charles Peterson, Tim Isaac & his wife Lily, and myself entertained and photographed with over 20 very talented photographers from both near and wide. It was a great experience, filled with good times, new friends, and lessons learned.
Speaking of lessins, I have slowly been learning a few lessons myself, along the way to trying to get the most out of my photos. One challenge that I have given myself is to periodically revisit old photo shoots, ones that I may not have though successful, and try to coax more out of the images….maybe by revisiting old images, I could find new inspiration and rediscover a diamond in the rough. I hope to tell you my story of just such a “diamond-in-the-rough” photograph in the coming words and images.
In the summer of 2010, I visited nearby Mount Rainier with out-of town friends. The day, while nice enough, wasn’t spectacular. In fact, typical of “moody” Northwest weather, the forecast that day ended up presenting “mostly cloudy”, with a few sunbreaks. While this made for a nice stroll around the Paradise Visitor’s area around Mount Rainier, it seemed to make for poor photo-making circumstances. Yet, I prevailed and took a a few photos with my Leica M9 and APO-Summicron 90 mm f/2 Asph lens as I wandered around a few trails with friends.  I brought the lens in hopes of compressing landscapes and relating the scale of the surroundings to the giant mountain off in the distance. For the most part, my photographic muse was uninspired. Rainier was shrouded by or covered completely by clouds for large chunks of the hike, but in moments, during those rare sunbreaks, the giant mountain would peak out and tempt us. So away, I snapped, hoping for the best.
On returning home,  I quickly downloaded the images, and here’s a sample of what I got….an image that I’d consider thoroughly uninspiring….
As you can see, the image was fraught by poor composition, dust on the sensor, and a lack of clear cohesive direction. Being an eternal optimist, I did my best to tweak the image. I did a bit of liberal cropping to re-center the image and get ride of some dust, and thought I had done a reasonable job of capturing a somewhat bland summer mountain moment. I have plenty of these in my home photo collection, half-finished images that simply don’t seem worth much more effort:
To me, the image continued to seem underexposed in the foreground, and generally dull. I tried to tweak things a bit more by increasing the “green” luminance channel in Adobe Lightroom to bring out the trees (as well as some more dust on my sensor, which came about as a result of my processing)…What I got reminded me of some of the garish HDR images that I stumble across, but at least I gave it a reasonable effort and improved the overall exposure.
I moved on and looked at other shots, but ultimately put the photos away for nearly a year. For some reason, maybe due to the crummy weather that occupied Seattle through much of the spring, I decided to go back to those images from a year ago, and give the image another try….
This time, The approach that I took was to say, for a change, let me try to bring out my “inner Ansel Adams”….Every once in a while I find it fun to mock up images in the style of a famous photographer, and in this case, I decided (with the best humor possible) to put on the hat of the famous Ansel Adams, known across the photographic world for his wondrous black and while work.
To all of you who believe that a photograph should be taken and left as is, please read up on Ansel’s techniques. Adams used extensive photo processing to achieve the look that he desired. He did a ton of dodging and burning, to bring out the intended highlights and sink the intended shadows to create some of history’s most compelling images. Today, in the world of digital imagery and wizardry, processing becomes much easier, and I was able to simply refer back to my Lightroom library and do a quick Black and White conversion. Stepping back to the last edited image in my series, here’s what happened, after a bit of dust removal and contrast adjustment:
To me, suddenly the image in front of me, left for dead a year ago, came to life. I suddenly saw Mt. Rainier as a looming giant in the mist, with the foreground telling its own story….so I I decided to tweak further, pushing the highlights and shadows a bit more to see what would happen….
What I found was that the mountain was becoming even more mysterious…What had originally been intended as a snapshot of Rainier, dashed by the poor weather, was becoming a moody shot, and a “keeper” to my eyes….
So after a bunch more tweaking, that involved adjusting shadows, doing a bit of selective dodging and burning, and performing a series of little tweaks that involved emphasizing the cloud and fog that I saw in this modified image, all in Lightroom, here’s the final result:
So what do you think? I personally feel that I saved an image….a throwaway image at that….Sure, I manipulated the image extensively. Some might argue that what I performed took the image from the realm of photography to something more like graphic art. To me, the image is still a photograph, albeit one that’s extensively interpreted for effect. But again, I feel that this last image is a “keeper”….
I’d be curious what the traditionalists and digital manipulators among you think. After all, this series of images provides a flow from “Before” to “After”, and you can see how what the end-result of the image represents is a far distance from the reality of the day.
Yet, this is now how I “see” Mt. Rainier, as a mysterious giant, hiding in the Northwest’s dense fog, occasionally peaking out, tempting us. Tempting us in its beautiy, challenging us towards becoming better photographers, and to me, better photographic editors….
Until next time, your thoughts and comments are warmly invited….

Jul 282011
 

UPDATE!!!

SLR MAGIC CONTEST EXTENDED, NEW GRAND PRIZE OFFERED! Now THREE Prizes!

WOOHOO! As I posted over a week ago, I am giving away a SLR Magic 28 2.8 Manual lens for the NEX E-Mount cameras (NEX-5, 3, C3, etc) and the contest is underway with some fantastic submissions already sent in to me. (see details below).

SLR Magic/NOKTOR donated the 28 2.8 lens for a giveaway and they wanted to sweeten the pot a bit so they sent me another super cool prize to GIVE AWAY for this contest and it is their top of the line E-Mount offering, the Noktor 50 f/0.95 Hyper Prime for E-Mount. I already announced that Noktor is releasing a 50 0.95 for Leica mount, which will be an ALL NEW Lens design but this one for the E mount is similar to the Micro 4/3 version. I did a few test snaps around my house with the lens and it looks pretty good so far. I did NOT get to take it out anywhere so I have no idea of the quality but I am going to do my best to review it before shipping it to the winner :) It would also be cool if the winner wrote up an article with some images shot with the lens…hmmmmm.

The lens is new, in box. It has the end cap and screw on metal lens cap. The lens is all metal, solid and heavy and seems to perform a bit better on the NEX than M4/3, probably due to the larger sensor. THANK YOU Noktor for donating this lens for the contest! Free stuff for the readers here is always VERY cool!

Here are a couple of quick samples shot with this lens around my house, at 0.95 on the NEX-5. I have NOT been able to take this lens out anywhere yet so silly house snaps is all I have!

 

2nd place prize, win an SLR Magic 28 2.8 E Mount lens! E

It’s contest time! This one is for all of you NEX camera owners. In addition to the 50 f/0.95 E-Mount Noktor, SLR Magic has also donated their newest creation for me to give away here on the site, the 28 2.8 manual focus lens. They sell this lens on their E-Bay page for $190 and it is a metal lens, well made, manual aperture and focus and gives a unique rendering. They also sell it with a cool MACRO adapter that works amazingly well (just got mine this morning)!

The lens is slightly soft in the corners, sharper in the middle. This is not such a good lens for landscape but can be a good choice for people, especially black & white. With the new focus peaking feature of the NEX, this lens is now much easier to use and shoot with. My review is coming soon but for now I decided to give away the lens t0 one lucky winner. My 1st look can be seen here.

To wet your appetite here are some shots from the lens on the NEX-5..

I believe this was shot in beautiful Tallinn, Estonia a few weeks ago. Click image for larger view. Wide open at 2.8.

In beautiful Amsterdam, 2.8

HOW TO ENTER & WIN!!!

It’s simple! Starting today, NOW…you have until August 26th to gather and submit to me your BEST image taken with any NEX camera. I will choose the top 10 and post them on the site and YOU will vote for the winner in a poll.

The top pick will win the NOKTOR HYPERPRIME f/0.95 LENS, the 2nd prize will win the 28 2.8 lens, and the 3rd place winner will also win a nice prize, a Think Tank Retrospective 5 camera bag which is a GREAT bag for any NEX system!! 

So get to it! You can submit old shots, or a new one BUT the only rule is that it must have been shot with a SONY NEX camera! Submissions can start NOW but the deadline is August 26th 2011 at NOON (Phoenix AZ time). You can e-mail the images to me at [email protected].

RULES, follow them or else your image will NOT be entered!

  • Images must not be any larger than 1600 pixels wide horizontal or 1000 pixels wide vertical.
  • ONLY ONE IMAGE can be submitted. JUST ONE! If you send more than one you will be disqualified!
  • Post Processing is allowed but nothing so crazy that it changes the image. In other words, no “photo art” or additions to the image in PS. Just things like levels, contrast, color, etc.
  • Images MUST be shot with a SONY NEX camera. NEX-3 , 5, VG-10, 3C, etc.
  • Old or new images can be submitted but must be with a SONY NEX
  • EXIF data MUST be intact.
  • Submit image with your full name and mailing address.

ANYWAY, keep sending in your submissions to the contest! I have extended the deadline now to August 26th 2011 at noonAll other rules remain the same and the top ten will now be posted on this site on August 29th 2011. THEN you will vote for your favorites and the top three vote getters will win! Voting will last through September 4th and the winners will be announced in Monday September 5th 2011. 

1st place: Noktor Hyperprime E Mount 50 f/0.95 lens

2nd place: SLR Magic 28 2.8 E mount lens

3rd place: ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 5 Bag

Jul 272011
 

 The image above of me was shot by Ed Tan in Seattle. Thanks again Ed!

Site news, Updates, Google +, NEX 5 & 7, E-P3, and a Mish Mosh of Information…

More Workshops Coming…

Happy Tuesday to all! Just wanted to post and say that I have a bunch of stuff in the works and I am finally recovered from my busy month on tour with Seal and then the Seattle Workshop weekend. The workshop was FANTASTIC and I have been getting feedback from the group, which is great to hear. Thanks one more time to everyone who participated in the weekend. Speaking of workshops, I have plans to set up 2-3 more and once again, will add to them with more instruction, more critique and more hands on/visual things like technique, overcoming street shooting fears, etc. Look out for San Francisco, Chicago, Las Vegas, Southern California, and yes…maybe even Paris. These will be the next locations and announcements will come soon. If any of you live in the Las Vegas, Chicago or San Fran area and would like to help out with hosting, guest speaking, etc then e-mail me. Also…with the help of Roger Paperno and Ashwin Rao we may be doing a week long workshop throughout Europe…sort of a “luxury” workshop :) If this happens I will share the amazing details soon.

But here is a question, and feel free to leave a comment with your answer. If you would be interested in participating in a workshop in San Francisco, Chicago, Las Vegas or Southern California then let me know. I will schedule these events around interest. Also, no need to shoot Leica to attend! All cameras and skill levels are welcome, just like they are here at this site!

Just a coulpe of  the e-mails I received in the last two days about Seattle…

“Thanks again for opening up your home to us for the weekend.  It was such a great time, the most fun I’ve had in a workshop.   Meeting all of the Leica shooters and learning from you guys was worth making the trip up to Seattle.  My studio is open to you guys when you plan a Southern California workshop, so please let me know when you’re planning your world tour. – Todd Hatakeyama”

“Steve & Ashwin: Thanks so much for hosting and presenting a superb gig (not quite sure what to call it – a mixture of workshop, meetup and pissup (that’s Aussie for good time with beer involved)). I had a great time and picked up many useful tips and tricks. Thanks again. Cheers Peter”

Love that he called it a mixture of a workshop, meetup and pissup! Awesome as that is just what it was :) Lots of passionate photographers who wanted to get out there and shoot with others who are just like them. Here is a page you have to see, Ashwin’s post with his have images from the weekend. Enjoy!

Social Netoworking Insanity…now join me on Google +

Just when I thought I was all set up with Facebook and Twitter, along comes Google +. So yes, now you can join me on Google + which seems like it will be “the place to hang” really soon and it also appears there is a growing community there already of Leica shooters so be sure and get over there and JOIN ME HERE, add me to your circle! Also, if you haven’t already feel free to “Like” me on Facebook! Every “like” helps. All you have to do is go here and press LIKE! It is not a “friend” request, just a like :) Finally my Twitter page is HERE and my YOUTUBE videos can be subscribed to HERE. Oh! How can I forget my RSS feed? See what I mean? All of this Social Networking..INSANITY! Remember the old days before the internet? Hahaha.

More Reviews Coming…

So….right now I have a Canon 5D MKII and 50L that I am messing with. My goal was to do a “Crazy Comparison” between it and the M9/Noctilux/Summilux combo. Ive taken a few shots for this but will be heading on a trip next week for 7 days (Going to visit Chicago) where I will get the bulk of the shooting done. Should be interesting. I mentioned in another post or comment that the 5D files seemed more “flat” or “lifeless”. Well, upon closer inspection, and with some tweaks it is getting closer :)

5D MARK II AND 50 L WIDE OPEN AT 1.2

Also, I am going to review the NEW MICRO 4/3 Olympus E-P3 soon and ALSO show a video overview of the new NEX-5 features that were recently added via firmware, especially the focus peaking which in my short experience has been working great. Speaking of the NEX series…what about the supposedly upcoming Sony NEX-7. Did you guys see this one? An EVF included in the body. YES! Looks mighty interesting!

Even more NEX coming soon. I have been shooting with the new SLR Magic 28 2.8 NEX E mount lens and will even be giving this lens away in a contest at the end of this week. Ill be posting my review soon, again, I need more images to evaluate it. Also, you heard it here first…something super delicious is coming soon…something really cool. Damn, thats all I can say :)

So the Canon/Leica comparison, the E-P3, the NEX-5 Focus Peaking, and the SLR Magic 28 2.8 all coming REALLY soon! Hoping I can get the new Oly 12 f/2 to test as well. In many ways it looks interesting, and in some not so much so.

So there you go, the latest happenings here at the site and in my home! Haha…be sure to check back a bit later today for a really cool Daily Inspiration! Until then, get out and shoot!

Steve

Jul 262011
 

The Leica 35 Summilux DOUBLE ASPHERICAL (AA) Lens Review  – A Classic FULL of Magic!

By Steve Huff

 

Video Correction – This lens was introduced in 1990-1991 and only 1000-2000 were made. The much more common ASPH was brought out in 1994. So, this lens was NOT released in the 70;s as the video states! Sorry!

How cool is this? I mean, REALLY…how freaking cool is this? I am back home from Seattle and one of the attendees, Ed Tan was at the workshop sporting one of the RARE 35 Summilux ASPHERICAL (AA) lenses. You may or may not know of this lens but I do know it is hard to find, very expensive, and tough to find samples from this lens on an M9 (if you can find any at all). Ed was so nice he let me TAKE THE LENS HOME so I could review it for all of you guys! The only problem is I have fallen HARD for this lens and if I had the cash ($9,000 – $13,000 IF you can find one) then this lens would be my choice in the 35 focal length for the M9. What I mean by that is, if I had hundreds of  thousands of dollars of disposable income this would be my 35 of choice, lol. As it is now, I can’t even afford the current latest and greatest 35 but I have enjoyed shooting with Ed’s lens so THANK YOU Ed! Hmmm…maybe he won’t mind if I send him a cron back instead, hahahah.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO SEE THEM IN BETTER QUALITY!

Roger Paperno and Ed Tan during Lunch in Seattle – F1.4, black and white out of camera (M9-P) – No focus issues in my samples and its very sharp wide open (focused on Rogers Eyes).

Roger giving the thumbs up to the AA and Ed smiling because he knows the lens is HIS!

Ed…no Post Processing, OOC B&W JPEG!

Yes, I LOVE the latest 35 Summilux ASPH II FLE but I have to say, the rendering of this ASPHERICAL is out of this world delicious. Do not get this confused with the previous 35 Lux ASPH…nope, this is the lens that came out BEFORE that one (around 1990-91) and has the word ASPHERICAL printed on the lens instead of ASPH (which came out in 1994). Its pretty small without the hood attached and not too heavy. The focus ring on this one is smooth though the Aperture rings seems like it needs a cleaning and lubricating, which is always one thing to expect when buying a used 20+ year old lens.

I have written about the 35 Lux ASPH, and the 35 Lux ASPH II FLE but this is the one lens I always dreamed of trying out and here it is. There is not much I can say about it that has not already been said in the other Summilux reviews but it is a SUMMILUX, so it is an f/1.4 aperture lens. It is DOUBLE ASPHERICAL and it is gorgeous! Yep, this lens was VERY hard and expensive to make as it had TWO Aspherical elements that were hand polished. Leica stopped making these after they produced about 1000-2000 of them due to the high costs. They replaced it with the ASPH version which has ONE Aspherical element. THIS “AA” Version is simply breathtaking though and I wish Leica would have re-introduced this version, but I guess we can’t have it all!

Sometimes the color of the older lenses have odd shifts, but this one has GREAT color that just pops. The Bokeh is pretty smooth in my opinion. Wide open at 1.4, as all Leica lenses should be :)

The BEST 35?

When I reviewed the latest 35 Lux ASPH II FLE lens I proclaimed it the best 35mm lens you can get for your M9, and this still holds true. It is the best lens you can buy in the 35mm focal length when buying a new lens for your camera. $5000, new, warranty, box and case, and a beautiful “perfect” lens with a modern rendering of your subject with a very smooth look. If I could afford one of those, and if they were actually readily available, I would buy one in a nano-second. The 35 Summilux lenses, all of them…they all have some kind of magic but…but…but… this double Aspherical version seems to have a perfect mix of what I really love. Classic rendering and great color, but also very sharp at the focal point when wide open, which are all ingredients that can add up to some serious fairy dust magic when the light is right. It may not be everyones cup of tea as I remember Ashwin saying he preferred the current FLE Lux to this one as it fits his lens kit better (more modern Leica look) but for some this may be the golden ticket.

Enjoying lunch and also the 35! Out of camera B&W, no Silver Efex here… Leica M9, 35 Summilux AA wide open. Bokehlicious.

35mm. It’s A great Focal Length. A classic.

Shooting a 35 on the Leica M9 is so natural. I have gone back and forth from the 35 to 50 and one day I may love the 35 and the next day I may love the 50. I also love the 28 but my true love in the lens world for Leica is the old 35 and 50. Two lenses I can live with for life (which is what I do). I have now tried out every 35 Summilux, even the older PRE-ASPH but my personal favorite rendering has come from this AA version. Just wish it was not so damn rare and expensive! There is also a huge lack of information online about this lens which is why I thought it would be cool to have a quick review and video here for it. As you may have seen, the video is at the top of this page.

Another out of camera B&W image (this lens seems to do well with B&W or color). Wide open!

 –

and some more out of camera color…

Why are you only posting wide open shots?

This lens, or any SUMMILUX Leica lens is meant and made to be shot WIDE OPEN. I will not be posting F/8 landscape shots as if you want a lens for that purpose then a 35 Summarit or Summicron would be a better choice. When you buy a Summilux lens, a 1.4 lens, this means that Leica has built this lens for maximum performance WIDE OPEN. This is in part what gives us that “Leica Look”. The mix of sharp subject, creamy backgrounds, the way the lens handles the light and even sometimes creates it own…these lenses create images with DEPTH. There is nothing flat about ANY Leica Summilux or Noctilux lens. When you stop them down to F/8 they become just like any other lens in existence. Nope, for me I shoot Leica for the beautiful glass and shooting that glass wide open is where it shines. It is not a gimmick, it is a LOOK and a look that goes along with MY style. Wide open baby! With that said, here is a sample at f/2.8 :)

f2.8, out of camera JPEG with color set to one notch above standard “Medium High”

FULL SIZE SHOT FROM RAW BELOW!

Here is one from RAW, and a FULL SIZE 18MP file from the M9. Click the image for the full file. SHOT AT f/2.8

This is a lens that you will not find much info on and in fact, some sites who claim they know all about Leica lenses skip this lens in their listings and reviews. It’s not an easy find, nor is it cheap when you do find it. I mean, you can find it USED for about the same price as a NEW 0.95 Noctilux OR MORE. This is much to high IMO, but when something is out there that is this rare, has the name Leica and the word SUMMILUX on it, AND is a double Aspherical lens…well, I guess we can expect it to be priced into the stratosphere!

So maybe there will be a day when I walk into some yard/garage sale and there will be a table with camera gear…maybe, just maybe, there will be a Leica 35 Summilux AA lens for $100 and I will snag it. That would be amazing. Unlikely, but amazing! Thank’s again to Ed for letting me borrow this little beauty so I could share my experience with you guys! If you have the cash stashed and want a beautiful 35…take your pick as they all have magic, but this one has more MOJO than the others. At least I think so.

Some Alien Skin conversions…both ISO 2500, late night & low light, 1.4

Straight from camera JPEG  – COLOR is nice. Click image for large version.

Wide open, again, OOC JPEG

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

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! Be sure and visit the all new forums on the site HERE.

Jul 252011
 

Seattle SteveHuffPhoto Workshop July 2011

Day 2 – The Assignments!

Happy Monday morning to all! It’s 8am and I am on a plane right now headed back home to Phoenix. Yes, there is WiFi on the plane so I am able to update this site as I fly! Pretty snazzy…

Yesterday was the 2nd day of the Seattle Meetup/Workshop and it was a full day of shooting, laughs, learning, and great food from breakfast to dinner. Everyone seemed a bit more comfortable and confident and the results everyone got were fantastic!  The weather in Seattle was perfect all weekend. Sunny and high 70’s so I could not have asked for anything better.

Photo by SK SAITO

We had tons of M9’s, three M9-P’s, three Noctilux’s. a couple M8’s and three M6’s. Lenses ranged from the rare and  Exotic 35 Summilux AA (ASPHERICAL, and my review is coming soon) to Zeiss and Voigtlander glass. Everyone was well prepared with their cameras, MacBooks, and willingness to walk the streets and areas in Seattle and SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT!

Just some of the $250k worth of Leica cameras and lenses at this event! 

Yesterday each attendee had an assignment to help them with their confidence while shooting on the street. I asked them to approach a total stranger, the earlier in the day the better, and to ask if they could shoot their photo/portrait. I am thrilled to say that all attendees followed through with this and from what I saw, it did help their confidence as the shots from yesterday were all VERY good. Hell, 90% of them beat my shots so I learned quite a bit myself from everyone who attended! To those who were nervous about approaching strangers, it was so cool that you overcame this fear when shooting on Sunday. I find this helps quite a bit when out shooting people on the streets so keep at it!

Here are some of the portraits that were shot of total strangers by those shooting digital. Warning! Lots of Shallow Depth Of Field ahead, which is how Leica lenses are DESIGNED to be shot:

Amy Medina

Andrew Holloway

Ashwin Rao

Chris White

Daniel Harrington

RANDALL KELLEY

Ed Tan

Gerard Van Wesep

Matt Driscoll

Warren Phillips

Roger Paperno (Yes, he asked)

Steve Huff

Peter Lindstrom

Peter Havas

Todd Hatakeyama

I believe a workshop should be laid back, easy going, and should NOT have the attitude that the presenters and hosts are better than anyone in the group. With my meet ups and workshops everyone is treated as an equal and I feel this lets everyone involved loosen up, relax, laugh, and get out there with the group to be the best they can be. I also believe in INSPIRATION and when we all shared our images on a huge projection screen in Ashwins living room I think we ALL were a little more inspired for the next photo session.

As I already stated in the Day 1 report, we had two professional presenters over the weekend – Charles Peterson and Roger Paperno (who had an EXCELLENT presentation, thanks Roger!) as well as myself and Ashwin who gave slideshows and some tips and tricks for the day.

It was a fantastic weekend that flew by and I had a GREAT time along with everyone else. After the long day on Sunday we all went out for dinner at a local pub and finished off the night with conversation, tips, lens sharing and plenty of smiles and laughs.

It seems my 1st day post is getting a few comments about the quality of the Leica shots. First off, a rangefinder is a TOTALLY different experience than shooting a DSLR. I brought along a Canon 5D MKII on this trip as well. I had the 50 L 1.2 attached but my shots with the Canon are sort of flat, have no “soul” and did not compare to the Leica shots in overall look. The 5DII is a GREAT and SUPERB camera but comparing it to an M9 with a good lens is not going to bring the Canon out on top for ME. I prefer the “look” of Leica glass every time.

The fact is Leica glass is expensive for a reason as it is the best glass you can get for any 35mm camera system. Period. Those who bash it simply do not own any Leica glass.

Also, it is MUCH more pleasurable shooting something like an M9 than a big DSLR, which is why the 5D rarely came out of my bag. The rangefinder experience is a joyful one. It puts smiles on the faces of those who own one. It brings a confidence and adds some motivation to shoot. It is an experience unlike any other in the photographic world. It was a PLEASURE shooting with 20 other RF shooters this weekend and I look forward to doing it again soon. The magic is not just in the “snapshots” but in the user experience and glass that we all take great pride in using. It is my system of choice for anything from snapshots to professional work.

Oh and one more thing..Leica is also not just for the rich as I am FAR from rich!

THANKS to all who attended and to Ashwin, Roger and Charles. I will leave you with a few more photos from the weekend. Some are mine, some were shot by others.

1st few are from me, Steve Huff from Day 2 – more behind the scene stuff

and now a few from some of the others! Great shots guys! Enjoy!

AMY MEDINA

ASHWIN RAO

ANDREW HOLLOWAY

CHRIS WHITE

Gerard Van Wesep

MATT DRISCOLL

ROGER PAPERNO

TODD HATAKEYAMA

Jul 242011
 

Hello Seattle! Day one of the Workshop, SUCCESS!

 

Wow Wow Wow! What a long, but AWESOME day! Today was day one of the Seattle workshop and it started this morning at 9am sharp. We had about 24 guests today and it is now 11:45 PM and I am just now getting to bed. I am a pretty tired but trying to write this update before I fall asleep (though it is not being posted until Sunday)

It all starts again Sunday at 9am and it should be an even better day than today!

My plane landed in Seattle on Friday and after I arrived I went to dinner with Ashwin Roa (who is hosting this workshop at his home) and local Seattle pro, Roger Paperno. We chatted for a couple hours and then took a drive and a walk where I snapped a few photos with my M9-P and 50 Summuilux ASPH. Man, did I tell you guys how much I love this combo?

Before I write any more, I want to thank Ashwin BIG TIME as he has been an amazing help when putting this all together. I could not have done it without him, so THANK YOU ASHWIN!

As Saturday morning rolled in we all gathered for a 9AM start.  We had donuts and coffee from the world famous TOP POT donut shop. They were delicious! I usually do not eat donuts..well, it’s a rare occasion when I buy them, but these were sooooo tasty.

After everyone introduced themselves we enjoyed a presentation and slide show from Ashwin as well as famous Rock Photographer Charles Peterson, who gave us a slideshow of his amazing concert work of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and even a nice little segment of his personal images of his wife and son, all shot with an M9.

After the presentations we all headed out for some shooting throughout some hot spots of Seattle. Pike Place was the main spot where we shot today and it was great fun. LOTS of characters and street performers in Seattle and man, was it BUSY! It was great to have 20+ photographers all shooting Leica M cameras. We took the the streets with one goal in mind…to shoot some great photos so we could show them later in the day to everyone via a projector. Fun!

After we shot we headed over to lunch and then back to Ashwin’s house to edit and work on photos. After sharing the best three from everyone in the group we went back out to shoot more and have dinner. Was a great day and I am looking forward to day 2!

and one of me from Ashwin…

In the next couple of days I will have photos posted from everyone who attended this meet up. There are some GREAT shots and today will be a great day with the prize giveaway, guest speaker Roger Paperno, more street shooting and of course more fun :)

Jul 222011
 

 

My First Trip with the Leica M9

By Ricky Cheong

Intro:

Hi Steve and fellow readers, my name is R.C or better yet just by Inzite and I’ve been a viewer of this wonderful site for quite some time already so I thought I should also chip in my thoughts regarding shooting an RF and how it fairs against a SLR. I have been shooting for about 6 years or so with DSLRs from both Nikon and Canon, only recently this year or so have been really using my m bodies. DSLR is fine, and probably great for what I shoot and my shooting style, however there are times when I just want to go out and have less or a burden (especially when going out with the lady). This spring, I decided to only take the m bodies with me for our trip in Asia. Our destination: Macau, Hong Kong, Sanya and Phuket.

The Gears:

M6, M9, 35 Summicron, 15 Voigtlander.

Being new to the m system I don’t have many lenses for the bodies, I actually end up buying the 15 Voigtlander in Hong Kong while we stopped there. I left Toronto with M6, M9 and a 35 Summicron all inside my Crumpler 6 million dollar home. It was quite a change from lugging around a d3, 14-24, 50 1.4 in the same bag, or a 1dm3 or 5d, 24-70 and 70-200 in the same bag. The bag no longer felt like a burden and I no longer get harassed by the flight attendants regarding having too bulky of a bag beneath the seat.

The Trip:

On the way to Hong Kong, packed plane as usual.  M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/8 | ISO 800

Flight was long and tiring from Toronto to Hong Kong, with babies going off every 30 minutes or so, amidst the chaos on the plane, I did manage to fire off a shot that I was very happy with. The 35mm summicron + M9 is such a small package, great for shooting in close range with people in tight space. Had I try to shoot it with a d3 + 50 1.4, I would probably catch the attention of the woman sitting beside me because I would probably spend a good minute or so trying to yank my bag out from the seat in front, then followed with pulling the camera out of the bag, and not to mention the bold, fierce sound of the shutter going off.

Riding the ship from Hong Kong Airport to Macau. M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/50 | ISO 800

I do have to say, shots coming from the combination of M9 and 35 IV (I’ll use IV as the short form of summicron here on) is pretty 3D compared to similar shallow dof shots done with a 35L or 85L or 50 1.4 G. So carrying my dead tired drained body, I hopped onto the ship that will take me back home to Macau. I rested for a few days in Macau before flying off to Sanya to meet the lady. The short first part stay in Macau was not bad. Carrying a lighter camera in typical Asian humid climate can really enhance the travel experience. Back when I used to lug around a bag full of Nikon or Canon, I would be feeling so hot and tired that I would be really inclined to stay in doors as much as possible. Now with the m bodies, I can spend more time shooting outside and less time enjoying the ac.

Koi watching in a garden surrounded by cement buildings. M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/500 | ISO 160

So I met the lady in Sanya and we hit up some tourist spots there, it’s a nice and interesting place there, some call it Hawaii in Asia. I find it quite relaxing as all we did everyday was go out and have fun, all on our own schedule. Weather was nice, typical island climate. If you find your self in the area of Hong Kong or Macau, hop over and spend two or three days there. It is as close as it gets to Hawaii without leaving southern China. The M6 stayed in the bag at our room as a back up body, I took the M9 + 35 IV out every day, every where, bag less, free. It was a good start for the remainder of the trip with regards to the pleasure of shooting. 35 IV works great for an all purpose lens, prior to this trip, I have always wondered if a 50 would serve me better.

Visting Yanoda Natural Reserve, I have never seen so many parrots in one place in my life. M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/350 | ISO 200

Nan Shan Temple in Sanya, viewing it from the beach gives it quite a unique feel.  M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/4000 | ISO 160

The lady trying on a hat, we end up buying it for 45 RMB. Love the colors.  M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/1500 | ISO 160

Elder people give great subject sometimes. He was an old kind man.  M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/1500 | ISO 160

After our short stay in Sanya, we arrived in Macau along with my future in-laws. My second part stay in Macau is basically to act as a tour guide for the future in-laws. However, I did manage to fire off a shot or two that I can actually use for this report. Again, in warm weather like Macau, the less you bring out doors with you, the better and happier you will feel. I once carried a D3 with a 200 F2 VR lens for shooting once and despite the amazing result I got, it was a nightmare. Then of course when people ask you if it’s hard work carrying such equipment you usually man up and say it’s no big deal but deep inside us SLR folks all know that the freaking thing is big heavy and a pain to carry. Since I didn’t take much pics this time in Macau that is worth sharing, I will also attach a few I took before that I feel it will give you a glimpse or Macau and that being there is all it takes, the type of camera doesn’t matter really. (well, it does if you light to shoot natural light in dim lighting like me, and honestly, the M9 is definitely not there yet in the high iso department, see below)

Scanning Macau from on top of the Macau Tower, the tallest building in macau.  M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/1500 | ISO 160

Waiting with tickets to see “The House of Dancing Water” at City of Dreams. Yes, it’s a nice name for a hotel, but it’s true that you do feel that you are living a dream. M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/30 | ISO 800

Inside the MGM Macau VIP lobby, beautiful is understating it, it’s GORGEOUS! D3 | 14 | F2.8 | 1/60 | ISO 2800

Wide angle Venetian style. Yes, it’s in Macau and you can enjoy the famous meat jerky and eggrolls right after! D3 | 24 | F2.8 | 1/60 | ISO 2000

Moon lit Guan Yin by the shore, Macau, where the east meets the west.  D3 | 24 | 1/40 | ISO 8000

Hong Kong, the place where anything is possible as long as one has the cash. It is the place where you can buy multiple M9 in store. (at “fried” price, as locals call it). It is also the same place where you see more people carry LV bags more than plastic shopping bags. It’s a fine city. I dropped by a famous camera store in TST to pick up a 15mm Voigtlander and off I go in wide angle rf land. Framing through the external view finder and focusing or metering through the internal finder proved to be easier than I thought, it is miles ahead of the D3 + 14-24 combination in terms of weight and portability. However, based on the firmware of the M9 at the time, it did have the color shift corners issues, doesn’t bother me much but its there.

Small and portable, image quality is quite decent, I like. 

Look at the wide-ness of that! I really like this shot because it’s quite odd to see no one on the streets in Hong Kong.  M9 | 15 | F6.7 | 1/750 | ISO 400

We met Mario at an arcade place in Mongkok, Hong Kong. M9 | 15 | F5.6 | 1/8 | ISO 800

I got to try a 50 F1.4 Summilux in store in Hong Kong, it is definitely a mighty fine lens. I look forward to getting one soon! M9 | 50 | F1.4 | 1/45 | ISO 1000

Getting away from the heat in underground AC cooled pass way.  M9 | 15 | F4.5 | 1/125 | ISO 1600

Finally we arrive in Phuket, Thailand. It is basically a foreigner’s heaven, everything is cheap! The food was excellent, our resort was excellent and the weather was excellent. It was a good opportunity to test out my new wide angle! I was really glad that I did not bring a D3 + 14-24 because it was incredibly hot during the day and I simply cannot imagine carrying such heavy gear under the scorching sun. The M9 did an incredible job in the intense heat and humidity. It’s certainly weather sealed “enough” for my usage. I even took the M9 into the pool with me to get some nice shots. All in all, the results from this final leg of our trip solidify my belief in the possibility and results of the M system in terms of the practicability for traveling. It can certainly match what I can get with my DSLRs at home and if not exceed them by allowing me to shoot with less of a burden.

Fresh fruit to welcome us to the suite, mmm.. beachfront bliss.. M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/60 | ISO 200

Explosion of colors, tuk tuk rules here! It’s hot there!  M9 | 15 | F6.7 | 1/125 | ISO 200

With some practice, spontaneous shots are possible with a range finder. We caught eye of this street vendor pass by us rather quickly, we turn and ran to catch up with him.  M9 | 15 | F6.7 | 1/750 | ISO 800

Hand held over the pool water, it turned out better than I expected.  M9 | 15 | F5.6 | 1/90 | ISO 160

A rare shot done by the 35 IV, I was really addicted to the 15.  M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/90 | ISO 200

Great sunsets to conclude everyday in Phuket.  M9 | 35 | F4 | 1/500 | ISO 200

Post Trip Conclusion:

The M9 performed wonderfully through out the trip, even though it is one expensive piece of equipment but maybe because of its small size and low profile, I actually felt more comfortable bringing it to difference places, simply because it attracts less attention. The 35 IV proved to be quite a versatile lens, but there are multiple times that I simply wanted to focus closer than 0.7m, however that’s the limitation of the Leica m system. The 15 was probably one of my best buys in recently years because it was so small and so wide, it really got me getting creative and I guess the result shows. I didn’t find going manual focus was that bad of a thing, but it does certainly take some time to get used to. The large file size from the M9 did force me to get a total of 3 16 GB cards by the end of the trip but the quality is there right in the raw files. All in all, in the future when I’m going to a paradise I’m taking the M bodies and before that I need to get my self a 50. I hope you all enjoyed this write up and my experience with the M on this trip and the results I got from it. Thanks!

Feel free to drop by my flickr to see my other works

http://www.flickr.com/inzite

Inzite.

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Jul 212011
 

Seattle Meetup – THIS WEEKEND! 

It’s almost Friday and that means I will be heading out to Seattle to meet up with about 20 of  you who signed up for this weekends series of photography events! Hosted by Ashwin Rao, we have a full jam packed weekend ahead of us! I can not wait as this will be GREAT! I will be posting updates as things happen including photos from all who attend. To those attending, I will see you Saturday for fun, food, photography and GOOD TIMES!

To everyone else, check the site all weekend for the updates as they happen!

There have been THREE Cancelations in the last 24 hours so there are a couple spots open for anyone who wants to join us! E-Mail if interested.

Saturday July 23rd

9:00 AM: Everyone arrives (time at 9 am at Ashwin’s)

–       Top Pot Donuts (on of Seattle’s most famous donut spots) with coffee will be waiting for all.

–       9:15ish: Steve’s intro & welcome

–       9:15-10:30: Group Introductions

–       10:30: 10:45: Ashwin’s intro and comment on photography/slideshow

–       10:45 – 11:15:  Guest speaker intro: We will have a couple of guest speakers at the event (still being finalized). Tim Issac of Thumbs Up fame will also be there to talk about his products for Leica and he will have some on hand as well to demo and possibly even sell.

–       11:30- 1:30: Morning street stroll – downtown at Pike’s Place for some street photography.

–     1:30-2:30 Lunch (down in Pike’s Place- Pikes Place Chowder or the like – (Lunch is included and paid for)

–       3:00- 4:00 pm Head to Glazers Camera for Leica Demo (tentative, need to confirm on demo); We will do a Glazers stop either way with a possible talk by Ashwin on setting up your own photo show/exhibit.

–       4-6  pm Return to Ashwin’s for critique, comments, editing from our morning stroll photos

–       6:30 – 8:00 evening photo stroll – Sunset at Kerry Park  or Golden Gardens

–       7:30- 9 pm Dinner and evening cap (Rays Boathouse near Golden Gardens, The 5 spot, near Kerry Park, or similar restaurant in upper Queen Anne – DINNER is NOT included)

–     9:30-10:30 pm? Optional later night, low light photo stroll for those interested.

 

Sunday, July 24th

–       9:00– Breakfast: Mighty O Donuts and Coffee

–     9:15-10: Steve’s presentation of shooting The Leica M in challenging conditions.

–       10:00-11:00: Recap of the previous day – question/answer

–       11:00 AM – 1 PMPhoto Telling stroll – Space Needle/ Seattle Center – Tell YOUR story!

o   If people have interest, we can take a 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 Dad Watson’s or similar pub grub place (Paid for by Steve!)

–       3-5 pm: PM stroll at Discovery Park

o   Beautiful nature site worth spending some time at

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

–       7:30: Prize giveaway – Someone, at random, will win a complete camera system with all accessories (NO it is not an M9)

–       8:00 pm: Send off Dinner – (Bastille in Ballard, Rays)

 

Possible Photo Strolls

–       Downtown stroll (Pikes Place, Pioneer Square)

–       Seattle Center (space needle up close; up the needle, waterfountain)

–       Discovery Park and waterfront images, Gasworks Park, Travel through Discovery Park

–       Kerry Park (early AM or sunset)

–       Graffiti wall and urban walk

–       Alki Beach

–       Seattle Public Library stroll

–       Sculpture Garden and waterfront

–       Out of Seattle, into nature

–       Golden Gardens at Sunset (beach, mountain views)

–       Ferry trip to Bainbridge island

–       The Piers where the Ferries take off

 

Jul 202011
 

Just saw that this lens is in stock as of today at B&H Photo!  The 12mm f/2 Zuiko lens seems like the ideal lens for your PEN series camera coming in at $799. When mounted it will be the equivalent of a 24mm. With its fast f/2 aperture, it should be a GREAT lens. I have not yet had a chance to review it but do have one on the way with an E-P3 (soon). I did get a chance to mess with an E-P3 and my 1st opinion is that it may be a downgrade in some areas to the E-P2.

Sure there is the new 3″ OLED LCD which is AMAZING, but the image quality seemed to be not as good as what I would get from an E-P2. The build also seemed a bit more plasticky and the camera felt more like an E-PL2 than the E-P2.

I was also not happy to find out they used the same sensor from the E-P2. Camera operation seemed much quicker and they added a built in pop up flash but still, I would not be in a huge hurry to update my E-P2 to an E-P3…at least until I get to use it more and dig into its options. Hopefully I will have a review up soon of this camera but as of now, it seems the Fuji X100 is THE camera to have if you want old school charm, great quality, and a large APS-C sensor :)

But the 12mm f/2 lens seems like a pretty sweet piece of glass, one I would own if I was still invested in the PEN system. In stock now at B&H Photo!

Jul 192011
 

This video seems to be making the rounds online and gave me a little laugh :) This guy is out and about using his Leica M6 and Noctilux but he forgot ONE THING and he can not seem to figure out why the camera is not metering correctly. Can you see what he is doing wrong?

 

Lesson on how NOT to use a Leica:

Here is a video I found that shows you the POV through a Leica viewfinder while street shooting…not my style but VERY interesting…

It’s funny because I recently picked up a GOPRO HD cam to mount to my M9 for the upcoming workshop in Seattle (This weekend!). I will record as I am out and about shooting with everyone so you can see how I shoot on the street. Hope you enjoyed these!

Jul 162011
 

Dear Steve,

First of all I have to mention, that I’m not a professional photographer and I even do not have semi professional gear. Although I love it to take picutures during I’m in foreign countries or in special circumstances. Last year I travelled to Shanghai in China for work issues and one day I took the image with the man on the bicycle I send you with this email. I found it some days ago while I was stumbling through some pictures and memories and was surprised that my camera (please don’t laugh because it is a low budget Panasonic DMC-FX8 with limited and rough manual control) was randomly able to shoot such a nice picture. At home I just used a black and white filter for the first image and the second filter I didn’t remeber, maybe some sepia.

According to the images: They were taken in the middle of summer at the nanchang road on the west side of Shanghai. The west side is affected by a lot of old buildings especially the road where I took this image. The special thing in this city is that opposites are close together. For example modern things (for instance elevated roads) are combined with old fashioned ones or the poor and rich parts of the city are close together. I think both images are unusual ones for this city because most of the people think of bright lights and a skyline with with great skyscrapers according to Shanghai however they are demonstrating the character of this city I have mentioned before.
Kind regards from Germany, Max

PS: Please excuse my poor English and way of photography. The intention why I send you this email is because I found your site some months ago and really enjoy reading it from time to time. Today I just spontaneously wanted to share these both images with you.

Jul 152011
 
USER REPORT: The Fuji X100 vs the Leica M6? By Frederick Ogez
I can hear the angry comments already, “This is ridiculous! These two cameras were never intended to be matched against the likes of each other… A viewfinder camera with a fixed lens and an interchangeable lens rangefinder??!” And, “Not another FILM AGAINST DIGITAL article!” Before angrily slamming the laptop screen down, please read on!

Working at a small family owned since camera shop in Minnesota, I was recently able to bring a copy of the Fuji X100 home for testing, and a wild idea popped into my head, my primary camera being a Leica M6… “What if I pitted these two wonderful cameras against each other? What would I find I liked and disliked about each, which would I find I liked better as a small concealable walk-around camera?”

Alright, let’s face it. These cameras can never really compete directly against the likes of each other. BUT let’s also face another fact. A used Leica M6 can be purchased for about the same price as a new X100, of course throw in a piece of Leica glass and your talking a difference, but this is undoubtedly a decision many are considering at this interesting time in photographic history as many are again calling for a pure photographic experience. My decision was made. The Leica was loaded and the Fuji was charged…

My first goal was to get the Fuji set up in a way that best fit my shooting style. I turned in-finder image review to off, the rear LCD to remain off unless in playback, and the battery saving auto-off feature to completely off. I was beginning to feel at home already! Next I held the “display” key until the camera went into silent mode. My jaw dropped. Fuji’s shutter actuation volume made my Leica sound like a revolver. Of course this is an exaggeration, but it is outstandingly quiet. If you are a fan of candid style photography, and would rather have your subjects remain in their natural state unknowing that you photographed them at all, you must try the Fuji in a shop. If it’s a bit noisy in there, you may need to press playback to see if a photo was made at all. It’s just that quiet, and much more so than a Leica M. I set out with both cameras strapped around my neck, photographing in my humble town of Forest Lake, MN. But so much for my suburbian Fargo accented small talk ey, let’s get down to sharing real world opinions. That’s what this here site is about der anyways don’t-cha-know?

One thing I found out about the Fuji right away was that manual focusing was not going to be an option. The optical viewfinder is gorgeous and bright, in my opinion a far superior experience to using the electronic one (something I would hardly use) but it can be quite difficult to see the information in bright light! The frame line remained fairly easy to see, but exposure information was difficult if not impossible for me to see, and most disappointing was not being able to see the color of the focus box. This is inside the frame line, and where you place the portion of the frame you want the camera to focus on. It turns green when an accurate focus is attained. One thing I noticed was that indoors, the Fuji did have a very difficult time focusing in certain situations, and that little square would quite often be red, indicating an unattained focus, and I would have to half press the shutter again, sometimes having to recompose to an area of the subject with higher contrast. Now to address the Leica’s finder…

A photographer friend of mine and I were once discussing this very topic, and he did say that when going out into the street he desired a finder that displayed shutter speed and aperture value, which of course my M6 does not show! I have blown this off as unnecessary. Pure necessities! Isn’t that what a camera should be? Two dials, one for shutter, one for aperture and you’re done. But I must admit, it was a welcome addition to be able to quickly fly from f/2 to f/8 or 1/1,000 to 1/30 and know exactly how far I had gone, all without taking my eye from the composition. I now realize that this can be invaluable in situations with varying light levels, and mean the difference between an intelligently exposed great photo, and a missed opportunity. That being said it seems that there is no experience quite like a manual focusing rangefinder experience. In darker situations where the Fuji sometimes took three tries for the auto focus to succeed, the Leica is easily focused in a fraction of a second with its consistently bright and easily viewable coincident rangefinder. For setting a zone of focus, the lenses are intricately engraved, giving you a precise and intuitive way of doing quick reportage style photography. This of course can be done with the Fuji, but to me the in viewfinder bar that indicates a distance from “here” to “here” on a LCD scale labeled either in meters or feet is simply less available, less intuitive and less clear then markings on the lens.

In the hand, both feel phenomenal. The Leica is significantly heavier, but this is expected from a camera that is designed to last a century (with incremental tune ups of course). Both (depending on attached lens) are very small, and even pocket-able, and both are quiet! But the Fuji is simply more quiet. Almost totally silent, and part of its silence is due to its lack needing to advance… Oh I almost forgot about that… The Leica is a film shooter!

Ok, I know I’ve mentioned the shutter many times already, but this is the last time. A quiet shutter doesn’t just mean low volume, it means an incredibly gentle shutter. Now the analog Leica M shutter is one of the best available in this category as well, but the Fuji is able to be hand held like almost nothing else. I’m serious that in my time with it I’ve gotten perfectly sharp results at ¼ of a second, and believe one could go further and get acceptable results…It was very responsive as well, with no noticeable lag between fully depressing the shutter button, and the actuation occurring. Both were able to be swung to the eye, quickly adjusted according to the bright lines, and capture the decisive moment.

The Fuji was such an enjoyable camera to use, and for certain purposes is better than the comparably priced M6. During this test, I loaded the Leica with Kodak TriX, and set the Fuji to ISO 400. After scanning the negatives with a Plustek Opticfilm scanner, and processing the color files from the Fuji to B+W to my liking, I realized one thing. Digital is simply not film. Sure I can add grain and other effects to create a film like look in Photoshop, but the rendition is quite simply different! Famous Leica photographer Ralph Gibson was asked in an interview whether or not he used digital equipment alongside film loading cameras. He said he had tried using digital cameras, and that his close relationship with Leica allowed him the opportunity to test new products. He went on with his personal opinion between the two forms of capture… “Digital photography is about another kind of information…When I’m taking a photograph I imagine the light rays passing through my lens and penetrating the emulsion of my film. And when I’m developing my film I imagine the emulsion swelling and softening and the little particles of silver tarnishing…Digital imaging and photography share similar symbiosis.

I think it’s a mutual coexistence situation. I don’t think they even compare.” He says some very strongly opinionated things besides these in the interview as well, but these are opinions none the less! I find some of his views quite harsh, as you can all see from this excerpt that he makes an implication that digital imaging is NOT photography! I must say that though I find much of his work beyond gorgeous, and his photographic mindset unique and wonderful, I do disagree with him there. But I do find it inarguable that an image created on film, is not like a digital image. They are just different, and each person is going to have a different opinion as to which one looks “better”.

That being said, these cameras are both a joy to shoot! Fuji deserves acknowledgement for doing something so brave as the X100, and shooting it gives a rewarding feeling, reminiscent of a prior time. But a Leica M, is simply a Leica M. Simple, stunning, lovely, ready for generations of use. Chemicals do cost money, and processing adds up. How about a decent scanner as well? Not inexpensive in the least, and expense is the precise reason the M9 is not mentioned until this point in this discussion. But the texture, the grain, the form, the gradation of tonal values… all is different between the two, and this must be a huge deciding factor when looking at the Fuji, and a film loading rangefinder. Personally, the look of Tri-X is enough for me to justify the expense of the chemicals, and I really find the entire film process rewarding to a great degree. But I want to hear opinions of others! Thank you so much for reading, and I hope to hear many replies and much healthy discussion.

Thanks again Steve,

Fred

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