Apr 202011


Is the Sony NEX-5 the poor mans Leica M9?

Testing the Noctilux on both!

Many of you have been asking me for a quick test like this, and since I have a Leica M9, Noctilux and Sony NEX-5 on hand I decided to snap a few shots in my backyard to see just how much difference there is between the two cameras, when using the same 50mm Leica lens. I spent yesterday and this morning grabbing some quick shots with the Leica Noctilux ASPH f/0.95 lens on both the M9, and the NEX-5 with Adapter. The big question…Can the NEX-5 give results equal to or even close to the M9 when using the same lens? Many think that yes, it can. Some feel that the NEX can do better and others will say NO WAY, not possible! Others will say “WHO CARES!”.  I would like to personally believe that the M9 would wipe the floor with the NEX-5 using the same glass because let’s face it, those of us with a Leica M9 have paid dearly for it and for some $600 camera to come along to match it would be kind of upsetting to some. Honestly though, It wouldn’t be to me as I love the whole RF shooting experience and the NEX doesn’t even come close to that experience when shooting with it. STILL! I have written quite a bit on the NEX-5 as it has been quite the popular little gizmo due  to the fact that you can use almost any lens on it, when using the correct adapter.

I have seen some lovely shots with the NEX with Canon glass, Leica glass, Zeiss glass, etc. But still, when I look at these shots they all have the Sony NEX “look”. I do not mean this in a bad way, just that the NEX-5 has a certain feel to the images it puts out. The color, and overall smoothness of the file always tells me what was shot with the NEX-5. When I shoot the M9 and nail focus, the files still make my jaw drop to this day. Gorgeous.

So what I wanted to do was take some random test/snapshots with each camera using the $10,495 Leica Noctilux lens. The Sony has a 1.5 crop factor so the 50 will become more like a 75mm. That means that these images will not be exactly the same in regards to the focal length appearance, but hopefully you can get an idea. I have to say that when going over the images I was surprised how well the NEX-5 did, but at the end of the day, the M9 pulled ahead and it is mainly due to the color signature, the lack of an AA filter and the fact that it is using a full frame sensor.

This also made me wonder if there is anyone out there who bought an NEX-5 and a lens like the Noctilux to use with it. IMO, it would be a waste as the NEX sensor can not take full advantage of this masterpiece lens. My money would be on something like a Zeiss 50 Sonnar or 50 Planar if I wanted to shoot M glass on the NEX-5.

Ok, onto the test snaps…


The first test snapshot – Just an image of a door handle. Actually, the NEX-5 did great here. It took me approx 3X longer to manually focus the NEX accurately than the M9 but it wasn’t so bad. Just takes some getting used to.

and now the M9 image. See how it looks a bit more dreamy and with what appears to be more shallow Depth of Field? This is the full frame sensor at work and we see some vignetting of the lens as well. Shot wide open as was the Sony shot above.

What I see in the two shots above is the NEX-5 shot is very sharp and looks like a crop sensor image to me. The M9 image is showing me the classic 50mm focal length and has the Nocti signature where the NEX really didn’t have it. BUT, the $600 camera did quite well I think! Some will probably even prefer the NEX-5 shot here with the more clean rendering. Hmmmm.

Here I had my friend Mike do a quick pose so I could shoot both cameras. First the NEX-5, pretty much straight out of the camera, converted from RAW…

and now with the M9. In this set, I much prefer the look of the M9, Just has that Nocti look and glow IMO. Again, straight out of camera RAW conversion.

NEX-5, shot at f1.4. Testing for color and DOF…CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER

and now with the M9. Both are very good…which do you prefer the look of, or do you even see a difference?

More DOF – The NEX-5…

and the M9 – both shots were at 0.95

Here is an F2 snap and this one seems neck and neck. If you click the images you will see a larger version with a 100% crop. The NEX-5 seemed to equal the M9 here for detail…

The NEX-5

and now the M9

one more..NEX-5


So even with these silly test snaps from my yard we can see that the NEX-5 does fairly well when shot in good light against the M9. Still, for me at least, the M9 holds the edge with its full frame sensor and color signature and most of all, the shooting experience. When shooting the Noctilux on the NEX-5 it was sort of a pain due to me having t o magnify the screen, dial in exact focus, then un-magnify the screen so I can compose and then finally take the shot. It’s a lengthy process where you can forget about ANY sort of action shot when shooting like this. Even the M9 is slow when compared to the AF monster DSLR’s BUT I CAN get some action shots with the M and Nocti.

Also, the RAW files seem much more hardy from the M9 meaning I can push them farther before they turn in to a digital mess. The NEX files seem to break apart pretty quickly when pushed to the extremes. With test shots such as these some will say the $600 NEX-5 does just as well as the $7000 M, but in real world shooting I found the M9 to be much better for me and my style of shooting. But with that said, you can’t really argue about the results that the little Sony NEX can pump out. It’s more capable than I previously thought though it is cumbersome  to use with manual lenses. Then again, it all depends on what you are shooting and your personal style. If this little NEX had a full frame sensor I think the results would be pretty damn similar to the M9. So imagine…a pro level NEX with a FF sensor and no AA filter coming in at $1199. Now that would be SWEET.

One more, out of camera JPEG. ISO 1600, B&W.



In the shots above, both were shot as in camera JPEG, ISO 1600, B&W mode. To my eyes they look pretty similar except for the fact that the M9 is using ALL of the lens. if  you crop the M9 shot, the results would be similar to the NEX-5! Interesting!

Check back in the next day or two as I will be reviewing the Sony 18-200 Lens on the NEX-5. Think I will take a stroll to the Phoenix Zoo today and give the lens a workout. If any of you missed my NEX-5 review, you can take a look at that here. As always, thanks for stopping by!



Apr 182011

Here is my daily inspiration!!

After stumbling across Steve’s website by mistake I have fallen in love with the Leica M9, so much in fact after receiving a reply to an email I had sent Steve 6weeks ago or so I have now ordered a new M9 and Sum 35mm to go with. I am 25 and work as a builder in the mines in Western Australia, with a two week on one week off roster I have time to travel which I love to do! Here are three images I took on my last adventure to Indonesia all taken with the canon 5D MKII and the 24-70mm f 2.8 (no flash)

Was hard to pick three photos out of over 50 keepers, hope you all enjoy!

1) “Radiant” This lady hangs out down the bottom of around 200 stairs collecting money from people who use the toilet in Uluwatu, I could not walk past the smile (without a photo) she constantly beamed across her face without a care in the world.

2) “Prisoner” Indonesia is home to a huge variety of animals and the closer to the city’s I got I found a lot are used to entertain or make money from tourists. This Monkey is kept in a cage at a Bar in Kuta Bali- her face says it all.

3) “Show Off!” This man is pleased to show me his “winning cock” at a local cock fight, this is a huge part of the Indonesian culture with small fights even being conducted in the middle of busy streets. Legal until money is involved it is quite the eye opener!

These photos have had very minor adjustments with Photoshop CS5


Peace – MATTY

Apr 172011

Be Inspired! Photograph Your Home Town…

By Ashwin Rao – Ashwins Blog

Hello, friends and followers of Steve’s site. Many of you have read my articles on travel. Stretching my legs in far off corners of the world has brought me inspiration for my photography and challenged me to find creative ways to express myself. Furthermore, Steve’s own travels with Seal on his tour through South America, South Africa, and Switzerland have clearly shown what a talented photographer can achieve with a camera and a few lenses in his or her bag, the world stretched out in front of him.

Sure, I’d love to travel the world all of the time, but the reality of the matter is that most of us may not get to venture far from home all that regularly. In fact, I spend most of my days photographing the places in which I live, the friends with whom I share my daily life, and the little secrets that my hometown shares with me. It is our hometowns that become so intimately intertwined in our lives, and this poses both the greatest strength and the most daunting challenge of photography: How does maintain photographic inspiration in their own home town

Here in Seattle, Washington, my hometown of 8 years, I have found a photographic nirvana. Having grown up in Ohio, I came to Seattle with the eyes of a tourist, always excited to explore and ready for the next adventure. It’s this approach that I have used to discover the city over the past 8 years, and it is this city in which I discovered photography and the excitement for creating pictographs of the world around me. For me, the city and its surroundings are a playground for inspiration. I can wander into the cities oldest corridors and find fascinating graffiti and shadowed murals. I can wander down to the pier in the evening, and find myself alone watching a serene sunset over the Olympic Mountains, lining the horizon to the west. Or I can gaze towards Mt. Rainier in its morning glow as I bike to work. I can stroll the countless city’s farmers markets, camera in hand, and capture life in action, wander into a quiet jazz club and use my Leica glass to freeze the talented musician in front of me who’s creating a different kind of art….Maybe I am lucky, but if I am guessing right, many of you have enchanting places to capture that are within your reach. The trick is to find the inspiration around you. Here are a few tips that I have found helpful in honing your photographic craft close to home

Mist over the Ballard Bridge

Parade Procession

Roller Derby Girls…

Guitar Man


The Photo Stroll

For me, finding the inspiration begins with the “photo stroll”. Basically, I make it a point to get out of my house or work place regularly to photograph the world around me. My gaze is always looking for the next photograph, and walking about the places in which I work, live, and play is a great way to renew and reinvigorate one’s spirit. In my time in Seattle, I have made it a point to get around town, discover new haunts, hidden alleyways, and locations, which I may not have previously explored. I keep a running tally of places that I have seen and others that I hope to get to one day. I call it my “Seattle Bucket-List”, a set of places, which I hope to capture via my camera as time permits. My photo strolls have included day trips with friends, meet-ups with fellow photographers with whom I wish to share thoughts on gear, stories, and inspiration, and solitary strolls through the city in search of a poignant moment. For some of you out there, you have achieved a similar goal through photo-a-day projects. For me, its more-or-less a once a week thing, where I make sure to get out, regardless of weather conditions, to use my M9 around town. Regardless of how you do it, getting out of the home, stretching your legs, and bringing your camera along will surely be enough motivation to take a few happy snaps, and who knows, inspiration may be close to follow…

Cherry Blossoms and Children – University of Washington

Injury, 70,000 watching- UW Football Game, Fall, 2010

Ferry Ride at Sunset

Discovery Park Military Road


Get Involved with Friends & Make Photo Friends

Over the past 6 years during which photography has become an increasingly passionate hobby of mine, I have gotten to know many people in the community, including some of you who keep up with this site regularly. For those of you out there whom I have met through Steve’s site, thank you for your friendship and communication! I often find photography to be most enjoyable when it’s a share experience. I have had the good fortunate to meet and make many close friends who are as enthusiastic about photography as am I. It’s been a great joy to go on walks, camera in hand, and learn about a photo partner through their stories and through the images that they make. Oftentimes, how your friends and fellow photographers see the world can serve as inspiration to your own photography. For example, a good friend of mine, Brandon, is able to see patterns in the world in a way that I often miss, whereas I tend to see the world more organically, with less pattern. Yet, during our strolls, were are often in the same place, shooting similar subjects, and the differences that we bring to our own creativity can serve to challenge and inspire each of us as we move about the city. It’s exciting to get out there with friends, share in these moments, make and take photos, come home and share them with each other. Photography, like so many other hobbies, can be ever more exciting, even more inspirational, when you can share it with your photo buddies and your friends.

Even when I don’t always have friends to photograph, all of my friends now know me to be someone who nearly always has a camera with him, and someone who can get “cool” shots of their families or themselves. My friends have become willing participants in my own photography, and I have been able to document intimate moments in their own lives (i.e. weddings, babies, childhood memories, fun hangs at the clubs) in a creative fashion, and this has enriched both my lives and theirs. It’sgreat to have such a group of willing participants for my own photography, and I have to give a shout out to my friends for being so wonderful in allowing me to have them be my inspiration. With time, patience and practice, you can find your own friends, your own community, and be able to enrich their lives and yours through your photos.

Peter Schmeeckle on Drums, Egan’s Ballard Jam House, Seattle, WA

Space Needle and Ferris Wheel

Breakdancin’ at the Water’s Edge


Get to know your camera.

We all have different camera gear. Different cameras, different lenses, different bags, different flashes, different tripods, diffent wrist & neck straps, yada yada. Yet, a common ethos among Huffites is a love of photography. Sure, many of you readers own Leica gear, while others now NEX systems, GXR systems, or m4/3 set-ups. My camera of choice, as you all know, is the Leica M9, and before it, the Leica M8. I find the digital rangefinder to be a near perfect match for my photographic vision. The M9 is a discrete tool, compact and unobtrusive, yet capable of capturing the highest quality image. Because it is so unobtrusive and compact, I nearly always have my M9 with me. In this way, should inspiration strike, my camera isn’t far away. Despite my love of the M9, I’d propose the camera doesn’t really matter, and the best camera is the one that you bring with you. For some of you, that may be the iPhone. For others, it may be a GXR or NEX camera. For me, it’s the M9, and it’s a constant companion. Over the past 3 years, I have gained an intimate knowledge of the workings of my camera. I know how my lenses behave on my M9. I know how it meters. I even have a sense of how the aperture clicks respond, how long or stiff the focus throw seems, and balanced each of my lenses behaves when mounted on my camera. I know where to find most-used settings on the buried menus of the camera’s LCD. I guess what I am saying is: I know this camera. If you don’t know your camera intimately, aspects of its use can serve as a barrier to inspiration and creativity. For me, the Leica M9 has become nearly invisible. It’s the tool that I put in front of my eyes, and it sees the world as I hope to see the world…through some expensive glass, nonetheless, but in a way that inspires me to bring the camera along for the ride day-in and day-out.

Regardless of your system, the more you invest in understanding its eccentricities, the more you will come to understand whether or not it is the right tool for you, and if so, how to coax the most out of the camera for your own satisfaction. Bottom line: get to know your camera….

Lighthouse Point, Discovery Park

ICU TV, Fremont, Seattle

Big Four Mountain, Cascades Mountain Range, WA

Maintain a manageable kit

Okay, admit it. Most of us readers have GAS bad…and by GAS, I am talking about “Gear Acquistion Syndrome”…So here I am, guilty as sin for owning a bunch of camera gear, preaching to you to keep your kit manageable. So what the heck does that mean? Well, for each of us, that means something different.

Many of us are limited by budget. We can only own so much costly year. We have bills to pay, loved ones for whom to care, and other important costs to account for. But nearly all of us lust for the next great lens, camera, or such eccentricity. Yet, I firmly believe that it is impossible for the gear that we own to make us any better as photographers. In contrast, it seems that the less gear that one owns, the more focused she or he can become in honing his or her craft. Instead of being busy fumbling for lenses, try to bring only 1 or 2 lenses with you on your next photo outing. This will force you to focus on making photos with the gear, rather than focusing on the gear itself. When I travel, I typically bring 3-4 lenses with me, to cover all of the photographic circumstances that I may come accross when far away from home. In contrast, when shooting at home, I often limit myself to a one-lens kit (often a 50 mm lens) or a 2 lens kit (35/50, 50/90, or 35/90), so that I can focus on seeing the world through one perspective. By limiting lens options, I have learned that I can really get to know my kit better. This way, when I travel, I am well versed in my kit, from all the practice that I have gotten at home in using this kit.

Some of you may find that you only need 2-3 lenses for your photography. Others may find that you can comfortably limit yourself, on any given day, to a smaller kit and get the most out of each of your lenses and/or cameras.


Explore the world around you

One of the benefits that I found myself as a resident in my town was that I came to the town as a adult, seeing it in many ways as does a tourist. So heck why not be a tourist in your own town?!? Find places that you have have otherwise ignored. Move about these places without assumptions. You will be rewarded by new perspectives on your home town. If there’s one thing I can tell you, explore your home town….even places close to home can be just as inspirational as places far away, as long as you are willing to see them…


A Night out on the Town, Lucid Jazz Club, Seattle

The Burke-Gilman Path at Fall Time

A Tender Moment atop the Space Needle


Practice makes perfect (or closer to perfection, at least…)

Practice…Practice…Practice….that is the key, my friends. What better place to practice than your own hometown, your own back yard, or among your closest friends and associates. I am always practicing, and I am always trying to hone my craft. I have begun to see the world as a series of photographs waiting to be taken. With a camera in hand, and with experience borne of such practice, you and I will be better prepared to capture that winning shot. Good luck to you all in this. I’ll conclude with a bit of cheesy advise that I heard or read somewhere, which seems an appropriate conclusion to this little article: There’s magic in every moment, inspiration at every turn, and many treasures in everyday life. It’s all out there, waiting for you.

Now stop reading this blog, grab your camera, and take some photos. Your hometown beckons…



P.S. To those of you who wish to visit Seattle or may be coming here shortly for Steve’s next photo work shop , the images here were all taken in and around Seattle. I hope this whets the palette for anyone of you who will be visiting my hometown soon…


Graveyard of local heros


Skatekids takin’ a break to take it all in…


Fourth of July….Liberty Head

City at Night- Kerry Park

Sun Sets Over the Puget Sound


Graffiti Wall Kids

College Life Among the Blossoms


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

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

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Apr 162011

Hello Steve,

I like your blog very much especially the daily inspiration! Now I’d like to share my story with all the friends. Maybe this is one of my unforgettable memories in my life. When I lived in Netherlands two years ago, everytime when I went back home, the girls living in the same apartment always played the same game with me. After I entered the lift, just one second before the door was closed, they pressed the button and made the door opened again. So I was trapped and can not go back home. As a chinese, I don’t speak dutch and can not communicate with them. But I have enough patient to play this game with them.

One day after I took some photos with my camera (Nikon D80 with 35/1.8 lens) , I went back home and found these hoydenish girls standing in front of the lift already. But I found they were afraid of me if I tried to take a photo of them. Maybe most of them are muslem. Aafter I understood this, I turn this camera into a “weapen”. Each time when I hold my camera towards them, they run away immediately. But soon after that, they came back again and repeat this funny and endless game with me again and again.

I don’t think thses girls are rude of not polite. They are so innocent, pure and lovely, just like angels! This is some kind of special friendship between a chinese and some dutch girls. It has become one part of life and memeries. Now I am back to China but I can not forget all these girls in Netherlands. I can only say to myself, farewell, my angels~!

This is my story, battle in the lift. I hope you like it.


Huaying Zhong

Apr 152011

Hi, Steve!!

Its my first attempt to participate the daily inspirations! I’m 24 years old, brazilian, so sorry for the bad english. These are three images i made of my familiars (mom, grandfather and grandmother). I used a Nex-3, with the kit lens 18-55mm for the image of my grandfather, and my mother (daily3.jpg), and the other one with a Leica M8 + Nokton 1.1. As you can see, i use to look for a place with little high temperature light, to illuminate only the part of the scene i think is important. I don’t use flash, never. And sure, i try to increase the contrast when i’m converting to black and white (using silver efex). Also, something i’m looking for, and trying to make my “mark”, is to add some surrealism in the simple daily scenes, which i like a lot. Congratulations for the blog, and i have to thank you the fact i became a Leica lover.

Hope you all like the images.

My flickr: www.flickr.com/hcravo

Hugo Cravo

Apr 102011

Here I am in my hotel winding down my two days in Cape Town South Africa. THIS has been the absolute best stop of the Seal tour over the past month, for me at least. HANDS DOWN! I mean, I could live here and be happy. The weather is gorgeous, the people are friendly and happy, the food is delicious, and the beach…WOW. The beach is incredible. Food and clothes also cost about HALF of what it would cost me back home in the USA. Yes my friends, Cape Town is a place to visit for a week or two, chill out and just unwind.

We only have 2 1/2 days here total so I am making the best of it while I can.

Seal and the guys doing sound check at the private show last night

Seal played a private show here last night so it was a very small group, and a small club style venue and stage. Even though it was a much different vibe it was still a blast! Not only did I meet yet another reader of this blog, who happened to be the paid photographer for the person throwing the party, I also met another awesome photographer who was shooting the whole event. I had a lovely time. After the show me and a couple of the guys went for a late night snack and beer, and the streets were hopping, even at 2AM.

But let me rewind a bit. Earlier in the day, after the guys did their soundcheck, we took a quick walk to the beach and I brought along the Leica M9 (In stock at DALE photo now) and Noctilux f/0.95 ASPH, as well as the Sony NEX-5 and Leica adapter.

The M9 and Noctilux on the Beach

Next 5 shots, the M9 and Nocti/35 Cron combo on the beach in Cape Town – click images for larger and better versions

The next two shots are from the M9 and 35 Summicron

and back to the Nocti…

THE NEX-5 with Leica Glass…

We all know how good the Leica M9 and Nocti combo is, but how about the little NEX-5? I did not shoot it too much last night but did manage a few shots. I prefer shooting my M as that is what I am so used to, but the NEX-5, at $699, did a decent job. It will not..and I repeat, WILL NOT beat or even challenge an M9 file (I tried really hard) for sharpness, detail and snap but at 1/10th the cost of an M9, and being able to use Leica lenses on it, the NEX-5 is actually a tiny little masterpiece of a camera. The color can be gorgeous…

The next three images were all with the NEX-5 and Noctilux ASPH

SHOWTIME with the NEX and the M9

The show last night was intimate, personal and was also a private show for a great guy who has been a HUGE Seal fan since day one. The crowd was small but everyone had a great time. I mostly shot the M9 and Nocti as this gig was low lights. No huge stage or elaborate lighting setup so I had to go with what worked, and the Nocti just works!

I did take a few with the NEX-5 and Leica 50 Summicron and I really like the results. One thing to note…I shot the M9 and Nocti combo at ISO 2500 in B&W JPEG mode. What you see here are all OOC JPEGS that I tinted with a Sepia tone. ISO 2500, low light…where is the noise?

My goal for the night was to capture the energy, emotion, excitement, sweat, grit, and passion of the show. As I already mentioned, there were two other photographers there and I am excited to see some of their images as I always love seeing how others “see” through the lens.

Hope you enjoy the shots.

First, the M9 images from the show…

The M9 and Nocti ASPH wide open…

I always love the way the Noctilux renders every little detail.

Even though this was a small private show, the guys took this on with full energy

Sid tearing up the drums…

Probably my fave shot of the night. I went behind the drums to get this one.

Gus on guitar…

Always love taking shots of the crowd. This is a direct OOC, JPEG. Again, as with ALL of the others, ISO 2500.

This one was underexposed and I brought it out which is why there is noise in this one. With the M9, even in  VERY low light, if you expose properly you will get a semi clean file even at max ISO. Underexpose though, and you are in trouble. Even so, I LOVE this shot!

One thing I learned from shooting Leica at live performances. You do NOT always have to be up close to get a nice performance shot! If I had a SLR and Zoom I would have been trying to zoom in here. Nope, just me and a 50 is all I need to cover a full show. Bringing the audience and surroundings in to the image gives the viewer a better sense of what it was like to be there.

Audience Participation is always fun…

Mark Summerlin was rocking last night…

The friendliest, most cheerful guy I know…Steve (Sid) always has a blast when he plays..here he hams it up for me while playing.

A happy fan snaps a shot of Seal…

After the show Seal always meets with the fans.

Some NEX-5 Shots with the Leica Summicron 50, all at f2

Ok, so some of you asked for me to shoot the NEX, with Leica glass at a Seal show. I admit, I BARELY used it and of the 20-30 shots I took, I really only liked 2-3. Here they are…

The NEX does great at high ISO as well though the files are not nearly as “Robust” as the M9 files. Also, these did not look nearly as good in B&W as the ones from the M9. Why is that?

The rich color from the NEX-5 even at ISO 1600

Focus was hit or miss with the all manual Leica lens. Using the LCD magnification would have solved that but man, it’s a slow process during a live performance that would lead to many missed shots. I can focus 5X as fast (and with 98% accuracy) with the M9 as I can manually with the NEX/Leica combo. Also, with the NEX sensor, there seems to be less “WOW” than with the M9 sensor…

Thoughts on the NEX-5 and Leica combo

The NEX and Leica combo can give better color and image quality over the two Kit lenses that Sony offer BUT spending the big bucks on Leica glass for your NEX will not get you into Leica territory when it comes to flat out IQ. It’s slower to focus than an M, has less sharp and dynamic files than an M, and in all honesty, the M9 does just as good as ISO 2500 as the NEX does in the same range. Still, for $600 the NEX is a little powerhouse that is one of the coolest buys at the moment (still) for those not wanting the bulk of a DSLR and for those who do not want to spend the big bucks on Leica.

Still, I can’t see myself going out with the NEX and Leica glass when I own an M9. If I did not own an M9, I do not think I would spend $2-$3000 on a Leica lens to use with my NEX camera. I’d probably go for a Zeiss 50 Sonnar in the $1000 range instead.

I’ve written several times about this little NEX but I still enjoy it. Also, don’t forget J-Tec! They offer some unique accessories for your NEX and they are a site sponsor!

Where to next?

We are leaving Cape Town in a few hours and heading to Switzerland for 3-4 days before heading home. I will try to shoot the NEX more with the Noctilux in the next few days. Also, the Matterhorn mountain is calling my name..should be fun. Stay tuned!



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

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

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Also, the new


Apr 082011

Hello everyone! It’s been a slow update weekend as I have been traveling from AZ to LA, then to London and South Africa and in the next couple of days we will be on our way to Switzerland! So much travel, so little time, lol.

It’s 2:30AM here in Cape Town and I am here once again with the Seal tour to document the shows and behind  the scenes fun. I brought along the Sony NEX-5 in addition to the M9 this time and tomorrow I plan on shooting it (the NEX) with the Leica Noctilux F/0.95, just to see how it does. Maybe even do a few side by side shots with the M9. Should be fun. The big Nocti, the tiny NEX. Could be a stellar combo but imagine buying a $11000 lens for a $600 camera body! Crazy.

So look for something tomorrow at some time from this combo, should be fun! Will the NEX-5 give us that Nocti quality? I wonder…

Also, more guest articles and Daily Inspirations are on the way!


Apr 052011

Just wanted to do a quick post about a very cool Iphone 4 case I just bought from Amazon. It is an  Iphone 4 Leica M Bamboo Case that has a carved back that says “M1″ and it shows a 50 2.8 Elmar lens attached. Very retro, very cool. I ordered TWO of them and they arrived in a day as these are sold and fulfilled by Amazon directly. When I bought mine 2 days ago they were $30, today they seemed to have jumped up to $42 but they have 7 in stock for immediate delivery if anyone fancies a cool rangefinder style wooden case for their Iphone 4.

Apr 052011

Hi Steve,

Excellent site – been following along for a good while now – first stop for all my Leica info! Thank you so much for your great & honest reviews – helped me to build up a collection of Leica glass I’m really happy with. Time to submit some pics to you I think. I was inspired by your first Seal tour pics, to try my  old f/1 Nocti out at a couple of gigs. Loving it ! It’s challenging to use, but that only serves to make it more rewarding when you nail a good image. Sometimes, they’re not technically perfect but capture good movement or emotion. Anyway, here my pics of some local bands I’ve taken.

Cheers, Nick.

Nick Redman




Apr 042011

Just an update on the Seattle Meetup/Workshop coming up in July 2011. So far seven seats have been sold out of the fifteen available. There were a few of you trying to reserve a spot while I was away in Brazil but for some reason some of the emails were lost. If you want to attend and contacted me, but did not hear back then e-mail me again HERE. You can check out all of the details of the Seattle Event HERE. Thanks to all, and I can not wait! It will be a great time!

Apr 032011

(Steve’s full and thorough X100 Review can be seen HERE)

The Fuji X100 – Quirky but fun.

By Chris Bandera – Chris’s Flickr


I bought an X100, took it for a test drive, and am now debating on returning it. The camera is beautiful physically, but the interface gets in the way more than anything else. A camera should never get in the way. This camera for some reason already has a huge cult following, so I’ll probably get some flack for highlighting the negative points, but…I bought it and thought I should share my experiences thus far.

1.. It freezes, requiring a battery pull (specifically, after previewing images taken through the EVF with the main display turned off and trying to get back via a half-shutter press). A problem when a case is attached, covering the battery compartment. This is a minor point though… I mean, the X100 isn’t gonna replace a Nikon D3 in terms of dependability and continuous shooting, but still…for $1199 and in 2011?

2. Oh, speaking of the battery, it can be inserted backward by mistake.

3. Manual focus is useless. Three full rotations from min to infinity. Even though it’s electronic, it works and is smooth. But I was really hoping this would be implemented with a shorter throw, like on a Canonet.

4. ISO can only be set in small increments (200, 250, 320, etc., instead of 200, 400, 800)…sorry, I’m used to the full-stops I get from other cameras. Believe it or not, this actually slows things down a tad.

5. TIP: A $50 adapter is needed to screw on a UV filter. BUT, a 49mm filter can be screwed on backward to bypass this. Yay! I quickly discovered that shooting macro extends the lens from the body though, hitting the UV filter. Aha! That’s why the adapter is needed. Anyway, a 49mm can be stacked atop another with glass removed to fix this.

All of these are minor points, and the camera has more pros than cons. Honestly. For one, the image and lens quality is superb, which is why it’s so hard to return the camera. It’s also dead-quiet, and most importantly extremely light (the reason I bought it in the first place!). But I guess it’s just easier to nitpick and complain when you’re used to the slick, perfect interface offered by Nikon on everything including their cheapest dSLRs.

Here’s the showstopper:

6. The optical viewfinder is tiny and ‘blurred’ depending on viewing angle, regardless of diopter setting. It gives me a headache.

I’m honestly bewildered by almost every review having nothing but positive things to say… But then, maybe that’s because I unknowingly ignored any negatives when I placed my preorder months ago! Bottom-line: considering the price, I was honestly at least hoping for an interface on par with my Nikon D40 and an optical viewfinder at least as good as my Canonet QL19 (it’s more ‘consistent’ and not ‘blurred’, thus not headache-inducing).

Someone, please, just ‘digify’ an old Canonet or Hexar, and forget all the fluff. This type of camera is being sold to the same niche that uses the old rangefinders, so we don’t care for any extras. Get rid of autofocus, even the LCD screen for that matter (I exaggerate)! Just don’t sacrifice the viewfinder and focusing mechanisms. In the meantime, this was a hellafun experience, and will only mean a better camera the next go around. Thanks, Fuji. I’m still on the fence, but more than likely I’ll be waiting for your X200 while I shoot with my $5 Goodwill Canonet.

update: decided to sell it…the small viewfinder being the deciding factor. Oh well. Waiting on an improved version!

Apr 022011

My Theatrical Adventure with Leica M9

By Greg Shanta

I live in Moscow, Russia and I am an amateur photographer. After reading all those fantastic reportages by Steve from his coverage of Seal’s South American Tour and enjoying his great images from those events, I decided to challenge myself and try and shoot a concert with my Leica M9.

My brother’s wife is a choreographer and she had recently invited me to see their new dance drama performance based on an ancient Indian legend called ‘Dasa-avatara’ (no relation to the movie). It’s a great tale of God Vishnu descending on Earth in ten ‘incarnations’ at different times in history.

They put together a colorful show that was showing last Monday at one of Moscow’s most prestigious theatre halls, The International House of Music. It’s a huge modern round-shaped structure appearing to be made entirely of glass. The main hall inside has excellent acoustics and often hosts various great performers from all over the world.

Unfortunately, I don’t own the legendary Noctilux 50mm f/0.95 lens. So, I couldn’t duplicate Steve’s setup in my challenge shoot. Instead, I took three lenses with me: my favourite Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/1.5, Zeiss Biogon 28mm f/2.8 and, just in case I would need an occasional close up shot, I also packed a Voigtlander APO Lanthar 90mm f/3.5 lens. In addition, I had in my bag a tiny Nikon SB-30 Flash with a spare battery.

Just prior to attending the concert I met with a friend of mine who wanted me to help her with a portfolio. I took some shots of her near the Theatre with my 50mm Sonnar at f/5.6. Here is one of those shots, just to open my presentation with a beautiful young face.

I just love the way my Sonnar draws portraits, so I couldn’t resist showing it to you. The girl’s name is Irina and she is a very nice and friendly person, as you can see.

After my little photo-shoot with Irina, which was just a part of our ongoing portfolio project, I went straight to the Theatre. My brother’s wife had secured for me a nice second raw seat right in the centre. So I was in a very good position for shooting and close enough to the stage.

As I had my Sonnar on camera already, I took some initial shots with it but somehow I wasn’t very happy with the perspective. So I decided to do some close ups and swapped the lens for the 90mm Lanthar. I liked it immediately! That particular performance, I reasoned, was ought to be shot with a short telephoto lens, due to the specifics of the setup on stage and my own position. So, I just left the 90mm on for the entire show.

My Lanthar, mind you, is not a very fast lens. The hall was quite dark and the lights on stage very dim. That was done on purpose, considering the nature of the drama. So, I just had to use my Flash (fortunately, as it turned) in order to keep ISO at 160, which was my initial intention. It wasn’t a native Leica flash and TTL was not an option, so I used it in Manual mode. The Nikon SB-30 has only three manual positions: 1/32, 1/8 and full power, plus a 1/2-stop compensation both ways. Not much to play with but it’s so tiny and its output is so strong for its size that I just love it and carry with me almost everywhere, just in case. It proved to be very handy at the Theatre that night.

Well, enough of my talking and let me show you some pictures.

As you can see, the pictures came out quite nice! Out of about 300 shots I had more than 50 definite keepers and about 10 to 15 frames that I was very satisfied with. Not bad!

Now, that you’ve seen the pictures, let me talk about my experience. There were a few things I wasn’t happy with and I want to get them out of the way before I move on to the ‘happy’ part.

First, I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t move around. I had to shoot the entire show from the same position from my seat. It was, as I said, very well situated, but you want to move around to shoot from different angles. I didn’t have that option. That event was very high-profile and I had Indian Ambassador sitting just a couple of seats from me and all kinds of important people around, too. So, alas, I was sort of chained to my seat.

Next problem was my Nikon Flash. It’s a marvelous little beast but the recharge time in full-power mode is slower than I am comfortable with. Besides, when the battery is not fresh the recharge time is getting really painfully slow. I missed many good shots due to this problem alone. Luckily, I had a spare battery, as I always do. Anyway, considering its tiny size, I think it performed beautifully. I shouldn’t be complaining, really.

That’s about it, folks. Another thing that could be classified as a negative experience, actually turned out to be one of the most positive ones. I am talking about manual focusing in difficult conditions. You see, the 90mm frame in a Leica is very small. It takes tremendous amount of concentration to nail focus consistently. Especially if you are shooting rapidly moving people in low light and you are 48 and slowly losing your once perfect eyesight.

Mind you, this was a dance performance. The dancers moved around all the time. It’s worse than shooting sports because sports activities are usually performed in good light and the main problem is to have a long enough lens to reach your subject. By the way, I have another exciting challenge up my sleeve, involving sports and a Leica M9. It may turn into a total disaster or a good article on Steve’s site. We’ll see.

So, shooting moving subjects manually with a slow 90mm lens in low light with a rangefinder camera is a major pain… Or, is it? Miraculously, it turned for me into a major gain, instead. Yes, it is difficult; yes, you get tired in the end; your face may stay deformed for hours afterwards; and yes, you will miss some shots. But the very fact that I had to concentrate so hard on my subject had allowed me to magically connect with the subject and become a part of the action. I totally forgot that I was sitting in a chair with a camera to my eye. I was on stage, dancing with all those beautiful people the whole time! My mind flew out of my body through my eye and then through the barrel of my lens right on to the stage. That feeling was unforgettable! I really enjoyed it. When I made those close ups of individual dancers it felt like an embrace (I seriously hope, my wife isn’t reading this!) And when I shot dancers in a group I felt like I was right in the midst of them, swirling away in an exuberant pirouette. And no, I wasn’t drinking that night… Amazing experience! All thanks to manual focusing and the resulting concentrated effort!

I am a lazy dude. I don’t usually enjoy hard work (sorry, Mom). But in this case I found it crucial to success. It had helped me to get into a state that was very important for the final outcome.

The only thing that is valid in photography is the feeling, both on the creator’s end and on the viewer’s end. I see the photographic phenomenon as a bridge between those two ends: a delivery system that brings human feelings across time. All great photographs ever made by anybody were born out of deep, intense feelings. There is some unexplainable magic to it and you can’t make it work if you are detached from your subject. You have to be there, right in the middle of the action. And that’s where Leica comes in very handy. There is something special about rangefinder photography. It’s hard to explain to the uninitiated but the evidence has been in abundance for decades.

I was so fired up at the Theatre that night that I felt like allowing myself a little experiment with dragging the shutter (inspired partly by Seal in a recent conversation here on this site). I made a few shots using that technique and eventually came up with a triptych that I happened to like a lot afterwards. I called it ‘The Fallen Angel’. The angelic theme is indistinctly evident in some other shots in this series; so to me the ‘Fallen Angel’ was a culmination of the theme. Besides, the ‘Avatara’ concept that was dominant in that performance was of God’s descending onto the Earth to bring justice and peace. I like juxtapositions in Art, so I had my renegade angel falling from the sky in order to screw things up. Don’t take it seriously, though. It was just a mischievous artistic expression.I want to conclude my article with that triptych.

If you would be interested to see more pictures from that night, please visit my Flickr page. I must warn you, though: it’s a big mess and in serious need of some housekeeping. I am in the process of setting up my own web site now , so in the near future I’ll have my portfolio displayed there.

Thank you all very much for your time!

Greg Shanta



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

Mar 302011

Dear Steve

Here are a couple of portraits of my mother, which I took on a recent visit. She is 85 years old and suffers badly from a number of ailments. Nevertheless she keeps on smiliing. These two shots were taken whilst we were chatting and having fun. They make me happy. I hope they cheer up others two. We have lots to live for and we should all make the most of what we have.

Both images were taken with an M9 and 50mm Summicron. I also used a Metz flash bounced off the wall behind me to provide some fill for her face. The Leica is a non threatening camera and works really well for informal portraits such as these. With the Metz flash it is a little more imposing and unwieldy, but without it these shots would simply have not worked!

Have a happy day!!

Keith Greenough

Mar 282011


Allendale, NJ (March 28, 2011) – Leica Camera, Inc. is pleased to announce a firmware update for its high-performance digital compact camera, the LEICA X1. Users wishing to benefit from the new offerings can download the firmware update from the Leica website and take advantage of new, improved features beginning Tuesday March 29, 2011.

The new X1 firmware offers the following features and benefits:

· Improved manual focusing, with the focus screen showing the image based on an open aperture

· More accurate manual focusing with finer steps, when scrolling slowly with the click wheel

· Two manual focusing speeds for more accurate and faster manual focus operation

· Manual focusing lock now available

· Enlarged manual focusing scale display

· Depth of field scale displayed in manual focusing mode

· Manual focus settings retained in memory when camera is switched off

· Improved autofocus speed in low light conditions and with low contrast subjects, in particular when shooting multiple images of the same subject

· ISO setting displayed in Auto ISO mode

· Improved JPEG image quality

For more information, please visit: http://us.leica-camera.com/photography/compact_cameras/x1.

About the Leica X1

The Leica X1 delivers the best picture quality among compact cameras. This elegant camera features a 12.2 megapixel CMOS image sensor in APS-C format, identical in size to those used in semi-professional DSLR cameras. Each individual pixel has a generous surface area and collects more light, therefore ensuring low noise levels, high dynamic range and accurate color differentiation. Expressed in terms of 35mm film format, the X1’s Elmarit 24mm f/2.8 ASPH lens has the same coverage as the legendary 35 mm focal length. While its numerous automatic functions make the X1 extremely fast and intuitive to use, its manual control options enable the photographer to maintain concentration on the creative aspects of the composition.

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