Feb 252015


Low light photography with the Nikon V3

By Aspen Z

Hi Steve and Brandon, it’s great to be here again! The last time I posted was when I took the V2 to South Africa where it did the entirety of the trip. Since then, I’ve done many more excursions with it and from the tone of that post it shouldn’t be a surprise that I upgraded to the V3 as soon as it was out.


Most recently, I embarked on a solo trip to Norway with the primary intention of seeing (weather/solar activity permitting) the auroras- a phenomenon I’ve always been fascinated with since young and somewhat sceptical of. Dancing lights of varying colours? Hmm…

There was just a single snowy day spent in Stockholm mainly for ease of flights, but it turned out to be very interesting a place and I’m definitely gonna give it a proper visit someday. For some reason, none of the locals knew where the Nobel Museum was and I found it in a square after crossing a secluded alleyway in Gamla Stan.

Arriving in Tromsø, with skies deep blue, I was abruptly reminded of the possible challenges ahead; polar night just ended and there was no true day to speak of. It meant working with ISOs I’m not usually comfortable with on the V3. I’d admit that there were at least two occasions before the trip I hesitated getting another camera (namely D750) so that I wouldn’t need to fret about noise. Besides, I’ve never photographed the auroras before and common advice online suggested full-frame cameras, fast lenses and possible weather-proofing. There was no telling if the V3 would fail me on multiple levels.




I did learn a few things, some are tips from the perspective of a first-time aurora shooter, others just discoveries in general.

1) Unofficially, the V3 handles up to -16°C or heavy snow with no problem. I frankly believe most modern cameras can perform in conditions beyond their ‘limits’, much like how the Galaxy S5 can go underwater but isn’t given a special mention for it likely due to unnecessary warranty claims.

2) Test run a shot, i.e. do the highest ISO possible on your camera with a shorter shutter speed and adjust as needed. Suggestions of ISOs, exposure times and other aspects vary wildly from site to site and there’s no telling what light conditions were present or lens they used for such settings. Unfortunately for the V3, the sightings were during the new moon so the landscapes were very dark. Worse still, there’s not a fast ultra-wide lens for the N1 and it meant working with a relatively slow f/3.5. 90% of my shots warranted 15-30 seconds shutter speed with ISOs 1600/3200. These settings are typically not recommended due to noise (and they’re referring to full-frame!) but I knew trying ISO 800 and pushing up exposure was much worse in the V3. My focus was manually adjusted to infinity dialled back a notch. Be sure to check beforehand how long a shutter speed you can pull off before star trails become a problem.

2) The V3’s virtual level was immensely helpful (note: not the same as grid lines!). Except for the occasional compositional advantage, I couldn’t afford to crop with such light conditions/settings and wasting it on straightening horizons is entirely avoidable! Also, the tiltable touchscreen meant easy adjustments and no need for remote shutter.

3) The batteries drain faster but no faster than constantly using AF-C for motorsports/birding (in terms of duration). Warming up a frigid battery did restore some of its charge. I got through a night with two batteries, each left with the final bar of charge.




Autofocus, as with its predecessors, was a joy to use and very swift even in poor light. At no point did the V3 falter and the magical twilight colours of Tromsø were captured accurately. The N1 lenses in general have stunningly good stabilization (rivalling IBIS?) and typically give you 5 stops of advantage (with the infrequent 6-7 stops from time to time on telephoto lenses). Viewing Tromsø after a cable car ride, I decided to settle with the 32 prime for composition, forcing ISO 6400 due to no stabilization, and it was then I really missed the lenses with VR. Reine was my last destination and I was greeted with much milder weather. The days were just a bit longer and the bright red Rorbu cabins with seaweed sprawling along the intertidal zone lent contrast to the dull light and snowy mountains.



The auroras were indescribably amazing, with many colours in every form and shape, and they would disappear, capriciously, at times, only to reappear with greater intensity than before. They renewed in me a sense of awe so rarely experienced after childhood. My photos might have been better with a full-frame camera but I’m pleased with the V3’s output and glad that it shared such an experience with me.

More photos to be found here:


BUY: The Nikon V3 is available at Amazon.

Jan 162015


Kolkata India – Shooting the streets and smiles

by Mark Seymour – His website is HERE

My photography travels have taken me to some of the most beautiful, interesting and diverse locations but I can honestly say this was unknown territory for me and before I left I really didn’t know what to expect. The little knowledge I had of India from its unique colour and spices to its religious and cultural heritage, the ornately carved temples to the lush landscapes, the fabulous history of the maharajahs to the well broadcast poverty, did not prepare me for what I was going to experience. Kolkata, once known to the English traveller as Calcutta, it is the capital city of the Indian state of West Bengal. Kolkata is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India and is the third most populous area in India.

My opportunity to photograph the streets and people of Kolkata came from the Hope foundation and professional photographer Mark Carey who regularly runs a week-long training workshop that in addition to providing photographers like myself the most amazing opportunity to build their personal portfolios, but also enables the Hope Foundation to raise some important funding and their profile for their valuable work with the local children.

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Over 250,000 children are forced to exist on the streets and in the slums of Kolkata. 30,000 children are trafficked into Kolkata on an annual basis to be forced into child prostitution, child labour and child slavery. The Hope Foundation was established in 1999 by Irish Humanitarian Maureen Forrest to help these children.They provide support to over 60 projects including education, primary healthcare, child protection, children’s shelters, vocational training and drugs rehabilitation. HOPE has extended its support and now provides a holistic approach to development which includes working with the children, their families and the community in Kolkata.

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Joining four other photographers we prepared ourselves as much we could before heading out onto the streets and slums that form the living areas of the local people. I can honestly say that what confronted me was challenging and life changing. But what struck me most and what I believe I captured was the spirit of the adults and children as they lived their lives, photographing everyday moments. For me the power of the images was in the expressions on their faces, there was so much joy and laughter in such difficult circumstances.

Initially they were curious and taken aback by our presence as we wandered in and out taking photographs, but they relaxed and engaged with our cameras, smiling and welcoming us into their world. I can honestly say these people touched me in a way I was not expecting. Their sense of pride and joy was humbling.

Whilst we were there we were invited to a special event put on by Hope, a picnic for some of the projects they fund. They ate, drank, played games and enjoyed colouring activities.

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I predominantly photograph my street images in black and white, but colour is an important element of visually recording India. My photos captured the very young through to the very old, living, working and getting on with their daily lives. My favourite images are of the children at play, just like children all around the world, enjoying climbing, exploring and making up their own games. The difference was in where they were found playing, not play parks and gardens, instead railway lines and amongst the confined spaces between the homes and make-shift buildings.

I travelled all the time with my Nikon D4s and two lenses The Nikkor 35mm F1.4 and the 28 1.4 although some days I alternated with the 35 and old but superb manual focus Nikkor 58 1.2. All the shots were handheld, the light was generally really good however it got dark quite early which is where the Nikon D4s really coped well as I quite often upped the ISO to 8000 to let me continue shooting without flash. I’m a great believer that it’s not about the size of the camera more about how you conduct yourself, how you move around and communicate that gets you the best images.

For me I can say that with all my heart I will be returning to India and extending my experiences of this beautiful land of extremes.

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Oct 012014


Supermoon Photoshoot at 1620mm with Nikon V3

By Joe Marquez – see his website at http://www.thesmokingcamera.com

(from Steve: This is one of the coolest posts I have placed here in a long time…love it! Thank you Joe for the beautiful work and showing what the Nikon 1 system is capable of)

A couple of months ago, while out shooting with the mirrorless Nikon V3 and 70-300cx lens (189-810mm equivalent field of view – FOV), I noticed a hiker on a nearby ridge top – and a beautiful, bright moon above. I took a few shots and was quite pleased with the results. The V3 and it’s tiny sensor does surprisingly well in good light. Now I wondered how it would look if I attached a super telephoto lens and photographed the hiker directly in front of the moon. What about a ballerina silhouette? I decided to find out.

As you may know, the Nikon V3’s one-inch sensor results in the equivalent of a 2.7 increase in FOV. In essence when a Nikon FX lens is attached via the Ft-1 adapter, the V3 becomes a 2.7 teleconverter with no loss of light. Thus a 600mm lens becomes 1620mm.

Initially my plan was to photograph a single ballerina in front of the super moon. However, I began considering everything that could go wrong: weather, inability to focus at night, DOF issues, instability, inaccessibility and of course all the unforeseen inevitable mistakes I normally make. So I decided to increase the number of shoots to insure I would get a decent image or two.

Now I had to get my hands on a $10,000 Nikon 600mm f4 lens. So, I went to the only camera store in Hawaii with uber cool rental equipment, told them about my project and they agreed to sponsor my efforts. Here’s a formal thank you to Hawaii Camera (www.hawaiicamera.com) for supporting this little moon project of mine.

Using a number of online programs I determined optimum times and locations to photograph the moon as it crossed the ridge. And because the ridge runs north south I was able to shoot as the moon rose in the east and several hours later as it set in the west. Thus, everyday I had two opportunities at the moon. So over the course of a week I planned fourteen separate photo shoots. Only later I realized, I didn’t factor in time for sleep. Oh well, can’t think of everything.

I then called upon many friends – models, performers, cosplayers, ballerinas and dancers as well as fellow photographers to assist. Altogether 43 people were involved in this moon project. Call times ranged from late afternoon to early morning before sunrise. Most participants had to hike the steep ridge at night with headlamps. We required a spotter or assistant for safety and we communicated via two-way radios or cell phone. One cosplayer’s outfit weighs 133 pounds and required ten trips to get the costume into position. A super thank you to everyone who participated.

While the models and spotters were climbing the ridge, I and an assistant down below had to deal with traffic, trees, wires, poles, houses, basketball players, dogs, golfers and sprinklers.

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In the end everyone had a fun and unique experience and a good number of wonderful photos. In addition, I learned a tremendous amount about shooting the moon. Foremost is the moon moves so quickly when viewed at 1620mm there is often only a moment or two to get the shot. Secondly, the moon has quite a variety of looks due to clouds, time of day or night and so on and I had to constantly and quickly change my exposure settings. Finally, the Nikon V3 did an excellent job on this project and I wouldn’t hesitate using this little camera for other super telephoto projects.

In fact next month at full moon, I plan to again use the Nikon V3 and experiment with lighting, fashion, a bride in her wedding dress, video and a surprise or two. Amazing what is possible when you utilize a camera’s strength to its fullest.

Jun 022014


Nikon V3 and AW1 and Floating Lanterns

By Joe Marquez – www.thesmokingcamera.com 

I took a Nikon V3 and 32mm f1.2 lens and Nikon AW1 to the Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu. This event has become a Memorial Day fixture in Hawaii and is attended by nearly 50,000 people.

The ceremony is quite beautiful and culminates at sunset with the placing of approximately 6,000 candlelit floating lanterns in the calm water along the beach. Each lantern contains a handwritten personal message to deceased loved ones from family and friends. This is a very emotional event – and a beautiful one to photograph.

Photographically, the ceremony presents several challenges. First of all, some of the best photo ops are in the water so one has to be quite careful with expensive camera equipment. Secondly, the wind direction determines whether lanterns congregate near shore or float away toward the ocean – so some years longer reach is quite useful. One year I used a Nikon 200mm f2 lens as the wind whisked the lanterns away. Finally, over the years more and more serious photographers attend the event – and along with the improved low light capability of all cameras and even cell phones, many more casual photographers and attendees are in the water jostling for position to get the very best angles. For this last reason I stopped attending years ago.

However, this year at the very last moment I decided to photograph the event. Unfortunately, the forecast was 50% chance of rain and I didn’t want to risk a DLSR (D4, Df, D800), so I thought this might be an opportunity to test my newly acquired Nikon AW1 and 11-27.5mm lens. Unfortunately, the waterproof 11-27.5 (30-74mm equivalent full frame FOV) is only f3.5 wide open so I wanted something faster and longer. I decided to take my V3 and 32 f1.2 (85mm equivalent full frame FOV) as well.

In my Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 20 bag – which is absolutely superb – I carried the V3/32 combo and extra batteries in waterproof pouches and the AW1. Fortunately the V3 and AW1 use the same battery. How did that happen Nikon? My plan was if it rained I would only shoot with the AW1, if it didn’t rain I would carry the V3 around my neck and the AW1 with a wrist strap.

I arrived quite late, just as it began raining so out came the AW1. The menu is quirky and the ergonomics are poor, but it was wet and this is why I bought the camera. I struggled with the menu but eventually found the right settings. Took a few photos then the rain stopped. Turns out no more rain the rest of the evening. I took out the V3/32 combo and snapped away. This combo is blazing fast and at the beginning of the ceremony there was plenty of light.

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I worked my way through the crowd, into the main staging area where people were writing words, drawing pictures and decorating their lanterns and eventually arrived at the shore. Conditions changed quickly as bright sun turned to dark cloud cover.

As quickly as light conditions changed so did the mood of the crowd. When I arrived, most people were enjoying Memorial Day cooking, eating, swimming, playing sports, listening to music and talking story. However, as the sun went down and the ceremony began, the mood changed to quiet somber reflection and lots of flowing tears.

At sunset, the lanterns are placed in the water in one of two ways: by individuals at the shore or by volunteers on a fleet of outrigger canoes which each carry hundreds of lanterns. Each lantern has a personal hand written message – all of which are quite heartfelt. My wife cried when she read some of the messages in my photos. Very powerful, very emotional.

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Throughout the fast-moving ceremony I continued taking photographs at the shore, pretty much using the AW1 for wide and the V3/32 for reach. With my Nikon DSLRs I would shoot manual knowing I had lots of leeway in post processing if my settings were off. However, I know the V3 and AW1 do not have anywhere near the same leeway as a full frame DSLR so I was hoping the camera would properly expose as I was shooting in all directions under rapidly changing light. I set both cameras to aperture priority and auto iso. This turned out be a mistake because quite often the camera would drop shutter speed too low instead of increasing iso. Furthermore I had max iso at 800 instead of 3200 for much too long. Consequently, I ended up with lots of blurry images. My bad.

The lanterns floated out to sea fairly quickly so there was only a brief opportunity to get some angles I wanted. I was forced to wade out belly-button deep in order to get the shots. I tightened the camera bag close to my neck, held the V3 high in my left hand secured by a neck strap and the AW1 in my right hand secured by a wrist strap. I alternated between the EVF and tilting LCD of the V3 and dipped the AW1 in the ocean as needed. I don’t think I would be so audacious with my D4.

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Other than my auto iso mistake how did the cameras do? Well, I’ve included images for you to examine and here are some thoughts.

The AW1 was surprisingly effective. I was able to shoot in the rain at the beginning and dip the camera into the ocean to get some unique low angle shots. If it had rained at the event I may have been one of the few photographers (other than those with GoPros) capable of taking decent photos. The menu and ergonomics are quirky and frustrating but ultimately the AW1 was able to get the job done. Overall it kind of reminds me of the V1 in that you set up the camera and trust it to get the shot.

I’m a big fan of Nikon’s 32 lens and love shooting wide open at 1.2. The lens is small, fast, sharp and renders well. It will never replace my Nikon 85 f1.4 but it can certainly produce gorgeous images with surprisingly shallow DOF on Nikon’s tiny CX sensors. It did not let me down at the ceremony.

Obviously this is not a V3 review. However, I’ve been using the V3 for over a month and for me it is a worthy upgrade to the V1 (never owned the V2). More pixels, tiltable rear LCD, assignable function buttons are improvements I wanted and got. There are things I don’t like such as the switch to microSD and the limitation of 40 shots when shooting at high fps. Nevertheless, I’m pleased with the V3 because of its speed, accuracy and reach in a small, lightweight, silent package (can’t wait for surf season on the northshore). The V3, just like the V1 (and V2, I presume) is simply the best mirrorless camera I’ve ever used to capture a fleeting moment. This may be true in good light, but what about bad light?

This ceremony turned out to be an opportunity to test the V3/32 combo and AW1 in poor light. As darkness fell, both were able to focus well enough, however the V3 produced images much noisier than I expected and noisier than the AW1. Could it be the denser pixel count of the V3 18MP sensor or the result of Lightroom 5’s current lack of support for the V3? As of today LR5 uses a beta profile for the V3. I really don’t have an answer. I know these cameras with their tiny sensors are weakest in poor light, but sometimes out of necessity capabilities are pushed to and beyond the limit.

In summary, the image quality of the V3/32 combo and AW1 will never match that of a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a larger sensor – particularly in poor light. But how important is image quality and what is good enough? I tried to capture the mood and feel of the ceremony along with a few special moments. I certainly did not have the ideal setup and I made some mistakes. I leave it to viewers of my images to decide if I succeeded or not.

Beyond the technical aspects of the shoot what I remember most was the ceremony concluding and the sky having that last glimmer of light. As I stood waist deep in water, I looked out at thousands of beautiful lanterns in the ocean, took in a deep breath – and simply savored the moment.

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Jan 202014

Rendering Comparison: Olympus E-P5 vs Sony A7

by Michael Van den Bergh

First of all I’d like to thank Steve for his great website. I absolutely love his reviews, and his photos are an inspiration.

In this user report I will post comparison shots of the Olympus PEN E-P5 to the Sony A7 at the classical focal lengths: 35, 50 and 85mm.

The Sony A7

Inspired by Steve’s blog, I believe that a great camera is a camera that gets out of your way: convenient to carry, quick to access the right settings, and easy to get the shot you want.

My Nikon D7000 DSLR ticked none of those boxes. That’s how I tumbled into the world of micro four thirds. I currently use a PEN E-P5 as my main camera, and I cannot stress enough how great this camera is.

However, as a micro four thirds shooter there is always that itchy feeling that a full frame camera might produce superior images. With the new Sony cameras the itch got stronger, and on top of that I stumbled upon a crazy deal that I couldn’t refuse: $1,400 for the A7.

This pushed me into selling my Nikon gear and becoming the owner of an E-P5 and A7 side by side. I’m happy I made this jump. Rather than indefinitely debating which system is better for what, I’d rather just get it over with and own BOTH.

Right off the bat, the Sony A7 is fantastic. The controls feel right, everything is easy to access, and that EVF! I actually think the Sony EVF is better than the Olympus VF-4. They are very similar when you compare them side by side: about the same size and resolution, but the deeper blacks of the Sony make me forget that it’s an EVF. For me, that’s a milestone achievement right there: when you stop realizing that it is electronic and it all feels natural. Manual focus is easy through the viewfinder. There is no need for magnification or focus peaking.

The following comparisons are shown as a quick and dirty test, and are in no way scientific. My intention is to show what one might gain by moving from micro four thirds to full frame. This test compares 35, 50 and 85mm equivalent lenses, plus some outliers that might be used in similar situations (the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 and the Olympus 75mm f/1.8).

35mm Lens Comparison

I find it really interesting to see how the A7 compares to the PEN with the 20mm f/1.7 and 17mm f/1.8 lenses. It is hard to compare focal lengths because of the different aspect ratios, but both of these lenses can be considered as 35-ish.

I don’t have the FE 35mm f/2.8, so I used my Nikon 17-55m f/2.8 for this test. When set to 35mm this actually works and covers the full frame. The Nikon is not a bad lens and should give us an idea of the type of images you can expect from a 35mm f/2.8 lens on full frame.

PEN E-P5 – Olympus 17mm f/1.8 – ISO 200


Sony A7 – Nikon 17-55mm set to 35mm f/2.8 – ISO 200


PEN E-P5 – Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 – ISO 200


As expected, there are no huge differences between these images. The full frame image has a tiny bit more background blur. I’m sure the Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 resolves an incredible amount of detail, but these Olympus and Panasonic lenses are already plenty sharp.

The Olympus 17mm f/1.8 is often discarded as inferior. I’ve never had any issues with sharpness, and I love the way it renders…

PEN E-P5 – Olympus 17mm f/1.8 – ISO 200


The Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 is my favorite lens on micro four thirds. It has been my go to lens for the past year or so. On the other hand I’m happy I never sold my Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G (which I never liked on my D7000), because this lens works beautifully on the A7.

PEN E-P5 – Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 – ISO 200


Sony A7 – Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G – ISO 100


In this comparison there is an obvious difference in background blur. If bokeh is your thing, full frame really wins here.

I can show some real-world samples as well. I really like the colors from the A7, like the following example. It is with this type of shot that full frame really shines: a comfortable 50mm field of view and great subject separation.

 Sony A7 – Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G – ISO 200


The Panasonic Leica is no slouch either though, and the following photo really highlights its lovely rendering.

PEN E-P5 – Pansonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 – ISO 200


85mm Lens Comparison

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G as my favorite lens on my DSLR. It performs really well on the A7 and I will probably keep it for a while. I am comparing it to the two typical portrait lenses one might use on micro four thirds: the equivalent 45mm f/1.8 and the longer 75mm f/1.8.

For this example the background is only 4 meters away. These are the typical portraits distances where it is more difficult to blow out the background because it is quite near.

PEN E-P5 – Olympus 45mm f/1.8 – ISO 200


Sony A7 – Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G – ISO 200


PEN E-P5 – Olympus 75mm f/1.8 – ISO 400


The Nikon 85mm has quite a bit more background blur than the Olympus 45mm. However, if you look closely the 45mm renders a cleaner bokeh while the Nikon suffers from cat eyes in the corners. Though a different field of view, the 75mm Olympus renders roughly the same amount of background blur as the 85mm Nikon on full frame.

Here’s one last example shot with the A7 and the 85mm. This setup makes it really easy to make spontaneous people shots. This would be much harder on micro four thirds.

Sony A7 – Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G – ISO 1250


So is full frame really better? I think it really depends. For extremely shallow depth-of-field a full frame camera is unbeatable. The photos are creamy and sometimes the gradients seem less harsh, more natural. I assume this is a result of better dynamic range.

Either way, the differences are subtle, and micro four thirds offers an incredible selection of small lenses. It is the system you want to carry with you on your travels. Both cameras (E-P5 and A7) make photography such a pleasure.

I hope this comparison was helpful to everyone out there on the fence between these two systems, or thinking about upgrading!

Sep 202013


Spooky Fun with 50mm. Summilux, Summarit and Nikkor 5cm

I was going through my bag today and wiping down my Leica M 240 as it was getting full of smudges, dust and skin oils. I looked down into my bag and stared at the three 50mm lenses that lay inside on this particular day.

  1. The 50 Summilux ASPH
  2. The 50 Summarit 1.5 (Vintage)
  3. The 5cm Nikkor 1.4 (Vintage 50mm)

The Nikkor 5cm, 50 Summilux ASPH and 50 Summarit


First of all, there is not much I can say that has not been said of the legendary and amazing 50mm Summilux ASPH. I still say it is the best 50mm in the world for any camera system. While expensive at $3995, many times it is all one needs with a Leica M body. One camera, one lens. If there was ever any one lens to own with a Leica, this is it. I have written so much about this lens over the years and have shot it with an M6, M7, MP, M8, M9, MM and now the M.

It is a fantastic lens that everyone should at least try once in their life if they shoot with a Leica M or Zeiss Ikon or Epson RD-1 (when I 1st used the lens it was with an RD-1 years ago). Also, if those Sony rumors are true, and a high-end FF mirrorrless is on the way then a lens like the 50 Lux will be a hot commodity once again. I imagine it would do amazingly well on something such as a Sony FF, if indeed  that really happens.

If so, Leica Dealers Ken Hansen and the Pro Shop have plenty in stock right now. :)

So after looking at these lenses in my bag today and cleaning them up a bit I asked Debby to throw on a Halloween mask I picked up a few days ago for $10. It’s creepy as well as spooky and with Halloween coming up soon, I figured it could come in handy for a creepy lens test :)

So what I will show you first is a series of three images. One taken with the 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4, one with the classic Leica Summarit 1.5 at 1.5 and one with the 50mm Nikkor 1.4 Vintage RF Lens. Then I will talk a little more about the Nikkor and Summarit and why at least one of these lenses is good to have in ones stable of lenses, even if you have a Summilux already.

The 1st image: Taken with the 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4, wide open. Click it to see the detail. It’s clean, and it has the micro contrast the older lenses lack.


The classic 50 Summitar at 1.5. This lens is a fave of mine though I only use it sparingly due to the special effect Bokeh. 


The 5cm Nikkor 1.4 – A classic and sometimes hard to find lens in the rangefinder world. This one is LTM mount and needs an adapter that costs $10 to fit an M. It can focus to .4 meters but you must use live view to do so.


Three images of the same subject with each lens wide open. Each lens renders in a totally different way when shot at the maximum aperture. The Summilux is contrasty, crisp and has a smoother Bokeh effect with higher micro contrast. The Summitar is wild, with a melting blob of blur behind the subject (which is actually pretty sharp considering the age of the lens) and finally, the Nikkor. The Nikkor is a Sonnar design so gives an even different rendering with that classic glow we expect from older vintage glass. Which one do you prefer? Do you have a vintage heart? Hmmmmmm.

Two more:

Converted to B&W with the DXO film pack, this one was with the Summarit. Many HATE the look of this lens, I LOVE it but only on certain occasions will I use it. These lenses can be had for as little at $350 and as high as $800 depending on condition. I have had 4 of them looking for the best one and all were fantastic and in fact, the one that was the most beat was the best performer.  The subject pops out of a blob of blur! Click it for a much better view!


again with the Summilux ASPH, but this one at f/2. 


Summarit 1.5


So why would I own all of these 50mm lenses? To be honest I own two other 50’s because I am a 50mm junkie! But remember, these classic lenses are cheap when you think of “Leica” pricing so it is easy to own multiples when talking about classic vintage glass. For example, the 50 Summarit I settled with cost me $399. It has some slight cleaning marks, a couple of visible marks on the front element and the barrel looks old and worn. But, the focus is spot on and it was the sharpest of the ones I have owned and tried by a slight margin. So $399 vs $3995, big difference. But the Summarit is nothing like a Summilux ASPH. They are totally different beasts and are tricky to master :)

Two more from the 50 Summarit 1.5 wide open. They have a unique character that only this lens will give.




The Nikkor 5cm 1.4 LTM


As for the Nikkor, I have been curious about this lens for a long while now after testing Ashwin Rao’s copy of it at his home in Seattle. I liked the fact that it was a Sonnar design AND had close focus ability, much closer than the usual .7 meters of the modern Leica glass. I believe the Nikkor focuses as close as 1.4 feet compared to 2.3 feet of the Lux ASPH. But to use this feature you need Live View because once you pass .7 meters it loses rangefinder coupling and can not be focused with the RF.

Still, it offers a Sonnar quality and close focusing in a small and tiny solid all metal package. I found an EX condition copy that is MINT+ with perfect focus, no damage and in chrome for $599. Not exactly cheap, but again, much less than buying new Leica glass that will run you anywhere from $2000-$11000. Plus, experimenting with classic lenses is fun and they are easily resold if you decide the lens is not for you.

After all of this time and finding the Nikkor 5cm 1.4 close focus lens I am not 100% I will keep it. It is gorgeous, it is haze free, fungus free and scratch free but at the same time, I am not sure I will ever use it when I have a Lux, Summarit and even a Nokton and Cron lying around! I am a 50mm madman!

The Nikkor 5cm 1.4 LTM on the M 240





The M240 is a pretty amazing camera, and fun as well. With so many adapters available today you can mount SO many lenses on to the camera and use them due to the M now having Live View. Want to mount a Canon lens, Nikon Lens or even a Soviet Helios 40-2? Go for it. Using the Live View and EVF you can focus these lenses even though they are not RF coupled. Sure MANY mirrorless cameras can do this, but the Leica M 240 is the only one that is full frame, at least for now.

I expect that over the next couple of years I will try a slew of lenses out just for fun because some lenses render in such a unique way that they are worth owning just for those occasions when you want that look.

Old vintage rangefinder lenses can be found easily, some are very rare and some are readily available. Some are insanely cheap starting at $90 and some are pricey in the $1500+ range. I like having a modern 50 and a vintage 50. Which one I grab depends on my mood really :) My fave vintage 50mm lens is the Leica Summarit 1.5 in LTM mount. I also loved the Canon Dream Lens but at $3k, could not justify it as  keeper as it is a special effect lens. The Nikkor 5cm is also very nice and the close focus sets it apart along with the classic and vintage glow. There are so many 50’s out there but I warn you…if you start trying them out it can get addicting! SO be warned :)

To those reading who own or have shot with vintage 50mm lenses, which is YOUR favorite and why?

Aug 072013


Going Super Wide: The Nikon 6.7-13mm Lens Review on the Nikon V1

You can order the Nikon 6.7-13 in Black or Silver at B&H Photo

The Nikon 1 system has been gaining acceptance and steam lately ever since Nikon cleared out the old Nikon V1 bodies at a crazy $249 price tag, WITH a prime wide-angle 28mm equivalent 2.8 lens! The result of that fire sale is that many people have this little beauty now and the good news is that Nikon has released quite a few cool new lenses lately that are higher up in the quality chain than the 1st installments.

Nikon V1, ISO 720, 6.7-13 at 6.7 and f/3.5


Sure, the old 10mm 2.8 and 30-110 Kit Zoom are fantastic but the newer lenses like the 18.5 1.8 and 32 1.2 are excellent and finally allows Nikon 1 owners to achieve a shallow depth of field effect in our photos. What does this offer? Subject isolation! The Nikon 1 system lacked these types of lenses for a while and now that they are here, many shooters are loving them. The 32 1.2 has sold out of black and silver for the last two shipments, and that is a $900 lens that the Nikon 1 haters said would never sell. I predicted it would, and it is. Because it is a jewel of a lens for the 1 system.

The Nikon 6.7 -13mm lens for Nikon 1 is indeed a superb lens of image quality but keep in mind that due to the small 1″ sensor, this focal length equivalent will be like an 18-35 lens on full frame and coming in at just under $500, it is not cheap, but is it high quality? That is the question, because if a $500 wide-angle zoom is no good or just average, then no one is going to buy it!


Luckily, this lens has been getting high scores among users who have bought it with some saying it is among the best wide-angle lenses  they have used!

The Nikon V1 and 6.7-13 Zoom at 6.7 (18mm). The lens is contrasty, has great color and is plenty sharp! Taken through my window wide open you can see the bug splat on my window but the colors look gorgeous. 


Build and Feel and AF Speed

The build and feel of the Nikon 6.7-13 lens is very nice. It is not as high quality as the 32 1.2 lens for the same system, but it feels better than the 18.5 or the 10mm or the 10-30 zoom. It feels more precise. It is smooth to zoom and feels great on the camera though it is on the light side and appears that it may be easily damaged. The finish is much like the finish on the Sony E-Mount lenses..which is..fragile. It comes in at only 4.5 ounces.

The AF speed with this lens on my Nikon V1 is very fast, almost instantaneous. Never a focus problem with the Nikon 1 and usually with wide-angle lenses, due to the large DOF, everything is normally in focus anyway. But the bottom line is that this lens has zero focus issues on the Nikon V1 and I assume it would be the same for the V2 or the J1-J3.


So build is good, but not pro-like build and the usability is fantastic. The hood is small and light and fits on the front easily. The AF is blazing fast as are most Nikon 1 lenses.

The wood and lines in this image are correct, the real building was ready to collapse and was warped beyond belief. The Nikon 6.7-13 rendered it with good color right out of the camera on the Nikon V1.


No Need for (aperture) Speed!

The Nikon 6.7-13mm Lens is not a fast aperture lens but it doesn’t need to be. The range is from f/3.5 at the widest end of 6.7mm to f/5.6 at the longest end which is 13mm. The lens also has built-in VR (Vibration Reduction) to stop the shakes. Shooting wide, we rarely need the help of VR but if you are in low light this may come in handy.

The image below was shot at the widest setting of 6.7mm at f/3.5 at ISO 800 at 1/30th sec. Not much noise (for the V1), great color and as sharp as you can get for this sensor. The light was LOW here but you would never tell that from the photo. My eyes saw dark muddy dreary color, and very dim conditions. The camera recorded the scene nicely and very bright. Great colors as well. I processed the images you see in this review with Nikon Capture NX2 which I found gives me better color output than any Adobe product.

EXIF is embedded in each image if you want to see the settings. This was shot at 6.7 wide open in a dark area, ISO 800 and 1/30th of a second.



Shooting this lens on the V1 threw me for a loop a bit. When it arrived I was pleasantly surprised by the nice build and feel and as mentioned already, while not a solid pro build it is leagues better feeling and looking than the 1st zooms that Nikon offered for  the 1 system. It is smooth, silky, shiny and comes bundled with a hood and caps. For video, this lens rocks and almost provides a steady cam type of IS.

When shooting images it is sometimes tricky because when shooting at the widest setting it is very hard  to make an interesting photo, especially if you have little experience with super wides like I do :) One thing that is easy for me to do is take a self-portrait and doing so at arm’s length is a piece of cake with this lens :)

ISO 450, 1/30th second, f/3.5 at 6.7mm


Putting it to the test – ROADTRIP!

My son and I recently hopped in my Mini Cooper Countryman and packed  two weeks worth of clothes and headed out from AZ to Illinois which is a long and tiring 1800 mile trip. We wanted to take some photos, visit with my Mom, and take a drive up into the mountains of Kentucky (which we will be doing this week and I will add more photos to this review within a couple of days) to visit more family.


My son brought his Nikon V1 setup with his 10mm, 18.5 and 30-110 (and some of his 6.7-13 photos can be seen later on down in this review). I packed the V1, a Sony RX1R and RX100II, leaving the Leica M 240 behind. Why leave my Leica? Well, the last two times I did this trip I brought the Leica M9 and this time I wanted something different. So far, 3 days in, I have shot the Nikon V1 75% of the time. The lenses I have are the 6.7-13, the 10mm, the 18.5 and the 32 1.2. A complete setup and all I really need besides a long telephoto, which I rarely have a need for.

In a Mausoleum/Tomb with the 6.7-13 at the widest setting


I found the 6.7-13 to be a fantastic lens to add to my bag and I actually enjoyed using it just as much as I do the Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 on a Leica M. In fact, this lens gives nothing up in performance to that $600 Voigtlander prime and while this one does not give me a 15mm FOV, it does offer me 18-35 and that is good enough for my wide needs when using this camera system.




So, is this lens worth a buy? That depends. If you shoot Nikon 1 and love your Nikon 1 system AND you want something that will offer you a wider view than the 10mm prime (18 vs 28) then YES, most certainly!

As for me, after a week of using it I was unsure. After two weeks I was almost sold and after a few more days I was sold 100%. It stays with me and in my Nikon 1 kit.





A couple of full size files from RAW

Below are  two full size files from RAW. I believe the best test of a lens is by taking real world photos, which is what we all do when we buy a lens anyway! We do not shoot resolution charts or oddball things, we shoot life, things we see, things we come across. Family, friends and the world around us. If a camera does that well then it is good to go!

Click on the two images below to see them full size. The 1st one was B&W from Capture NX2.



Is this a perfect wide-angle lens?

NO, the lens is not perfect (and not many lenses are) and if you shoot it and open RAW files you will see distortion in the lens, and in many cases it is quite severe if you are up super close shooting straight lines. Remember, this is in reality a 6.7mm lens at the wide end! There is barrel distortion up close but all is fixable with a click of the button in Nikon NX2. You can also fix the distortion in Lightroom very easily. Once corrected you will get crisp colorful high contrast files that are typical Nikon 1 in appearance and pretty sharp across the frame. Again, you will not see the soft corners normally associated with wide-angle zooms.

See how the cage bowls out? This is an uncorrected file and you can see that because I was up very close to the cage it made the distortion very obvious. But this is easily correctable with one click.

UNCORRECTED – Some distortion in the bars


CORRECTED – One click


As long as you do not expect Leica $4000 performance in a $495 lens you will be just fine. For the 1 system, this is a welcome addition for all of you who love shooting wide and soaking in as much as you can into the frame. Just be careful of getting super close with straight lines at the widest setting of 6.7.




My son shoots a Nikon V1, and he loves the 6.7-13mm!

My son Brandon has been shooting a V1 for about a year or so and he loves it. He still owns an original Nikon D2h with a few lenses and he has now seen the light when it comes to size and weight. He owns the 10mm, the 18.5 and the 30-110 and he wants this lens too. Looks like he may be saving some cash soon.

Below are a few he shot with the lens on his V1 – no distortion correction on these, can yo tell? Probably not.






The Pros and Cons of the Nikon 6.7-13mm Lens


  • It is small and light!
  • Covers the popular 18-35 focal length
  • It is very smooth in operation when zooming
  • It is sharp across the frame
  • Superb color and contrast compared to other Nikon 1 zooms
  • Comes with hood and caps
  • Comes in black or silver
  • Great for video on the 1 series cameras
  • Built in VR (vibration reduction)
  • Sharp at 6.7, sharp at 13mm. Wide open or stopped down.


  • It does have distortion so must be corrected in RAW processing
  • Build is on the light side
  • No case or bag included


Bottom Line on the Nikon 6.7-13mm Lens 

This lens is a no brainer if you own and love the Nikon 1 system and you want a nice, small, well made and very good quality wide angle zoom. This will give you that 18mm to 35mm field of view which is a great little setup to have for tight spaces, up close shooting or when you want to cram a ton into the frame.

Wide angle lenses can be a challenge though because by shooting so wide it is very challenging to create an image that is interesting. I have seen many wide-angle pictures that blew me away so maybe one day I will master the art of shooting with a lens such as this.

In any case, it is a great lens and its only flaw is the distortion that is present at 6.7mm. But remember, this is a 6.7mm lens! So distortion will be there. It is easily fixed in software and 75% of the images in this review had the distortion fixed with one click. It really only shows up and is noticeable when shooting up close with straight lines in the image. For me, not an issue.

The lens comes in at just under $500, and when I originally heard that news I assumed it was priced too high. In fact, after using it I find that it is not priced high but probably just about right. Show me where you can get a quality wide-angle zoom covering 18-35 that is sharp across the frame, even at f/3.5 for under $500. Even the full frame equivalent from Nikon, the 18-35 (which I used to own back in the day) is $535, $40 more expensive and it is much larger, heavier and slower to focus. Nikon priced it just right for what it offers. Remember, you get what you pay for.

So one more thumbs up to Nikon for another great lens for the 1 system. This shows me that they are really committed to this system and I am excited to see what the V3 brings. I hear it should be coming soon, before the end of the year.


Where To Buy?

This lens is compatible with any of the Nikon 1 series cameras from the Nikon V1 and V2 to the J1-J3 and the newer S1. You can buy this lens at the links below:

B&H Photo: Black or Silver

Amazon Prime: Black or Silver



PLEASE 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 (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), 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 :) More info is here on how you can help even if you are NOT in the USA as I have Amazon links to GermanyUnited Kingdom and Canada as well!

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, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +!

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Aug 052013


Last week there were 12 of the Nikon 32 1.2 lenses in stock in Silver at Amazon and now there is only ONE. The Black versions sold out very fast. As of today, there is only one left at Amazon in Silver and B&H Photo are sold out of the black and silver 100%. This lens is selling very well despite the Nikon 1 hate patrol’s predictions :)

I bought this lens on 7/24 and am not disappointed in the slightest. In fact, my son and I left for a long road trip on Friday and all I brought was two Nikon V1’s, the 6.7-13, the 18.5 1.8 and the 32 1.2. I also snuck in a Sony RX1R and RX100II :) My son is shooting his V1 and 10, 18.5 and 30-110.

The V1 has been doing fantastic, and the 32 1.2 is my favorite lens. It really is the best lens for the 1 system, hands down. Size, build, feel, etc. All there and all gorgeous.

If anyone has been eyeballing it and thinking about it, there is one left. Act fast if you want it!

You can nab it HERE.







Jul 272013


Taking the Nikon 1 to Dream Land with a 25 1.4 C-Mount $29 lens!

The Nikon V1 is an interchangeable lens camera. We all know this fact, but what many do not know is that you can use many other lenses, old lenses, 3rd party lenses, and even Leica lenses on the V1 using certain adapters. IMO, it is a waste of money and glass to use expensive Leica lenses on the V1 or 1 system cameras due to the 2.7 crop that robs the beauty from the lens. For example,  a 35mm summicron would turn into a 90 and you would lose the magic of the lens which was designed for full frame. Many complain about the 1 system and the difficulties of achieving “Bokeh” or out of focus backgrounds (shallow depth of field) with the standard Nikon 1 lenses. There are two that will deliver this for you but one is expensive at $900 (the 32 1.2) and one is under $200 but will still lack a little in the Bokeh department unless you are shooting up close. That lens is the fantastic 18.5 1.8.

Still, those lenses may not deliver the blur that many “power bokeh junkies”  want. There is a reason many people pay $11k for a 50mm Noctilux and yes, 99% of all Noctilux users shoot that thing at f/0.95 as it was designed and optimized to do.  Luckily, there is a crazy way to get extreme Bokeh on the 1 system cameras with the use of a $29 lens that is sold on Amazon, by Amazon. It is in NO WAY anything like a Nocti, but hey, for $29 what do you expect?

UPDATE: Yesterday I posted the image below asking ALL of you to guess which camera and lens took the photo.

MANY of you said Leica M 240 and various lenses from vintage glass like the Summarit to the $11,000 Noctilux to the 50 1.5 Nokton. I mean, a ton of you said Leica M, which is a full frame camera! This tells me that many associate crazy massive Bokeh with Leica and/or full frame. Crazy what we will see when we do not know what took the image :)

Others said the Nikon V1 and 32 1.2, but even that lens would not render anywhere close to this way. What you see below if you look closely is crazy melted bokeh and soft corners. The Leica modern lenses would be crisp and sharp in the corners and the Nikon 32 1.2 would be as well. Some vintage glass renders in this way on the Leica M 240 and yes, the colors below do look comparable to the Leica M 240 but this came from the V1 and the $29 25 1.4 C-Mount lens with the $10 adapter :)


Yep, the 25 1.4 C-Mount generic lens from Amazon sold by Rainbow Imaging. It is not a sharp lens, it is not made very well, it is tiny and yes, it is a C-mount lens that costs $29 and is a 25 1.4 lens that delivers softness, dreaminess and crazy Bokeh that some will find interesting and others will find not so interesting. To check out the lens at Amazon, click HERE. It comes with an adapter for Micro 4/3 so you will need the $10 Nikon 1 Adapter. So for $39 total you can add a 25 1.4 lens to your stable, though like I said, it is cheaply made, very soft and on the Nikon 1, can only be  used in full manual mode which means manual focus, manual aperture and manual shutter speed. It’s not a lens for those that want speed and convenience, it is for those who like to take an artsy shot every now and again.



C-Mount lenses are made for TV cameras and are known to be TINY but FAST in aperture. In fact, you can buy new high quality C-Mount lenses at B&H Photo. They even sell a 25 0.95 but it goes for $1500. Using a C-Mount to Nikon 1 adapter that you can BUY HERE at Amazon for $10 you can mount a C-Mount lens to your Nikon 1 camera. Not all C-Mount lenses will work well but when looking you need to find one that is made for 16mm. This will then cover the Nikon 1 imaging sensor. Many Nikon 1 users are expirimenting with such lenses as are Micro 4/3 owners. These lenses work very well on these smaller sensor cameras. When I say “very well” I mean, they work..but the results will be crazy in many situations, and some will be beautiful. All depends on the eye of the beholder.


So for those Nikon 1 shooters who do not want to spend $900 on the 32 1.2, which will give you sharpness, light gathering, 85mm equivalent and a fast aperture with plenty of Bokeh, for $40 you can have a tiny setup that will give you plenty of (crazy) bokeh BUT NOT SO MUCH Sharpness, not so good of build and a lens that will not focus to infinity :)  Still, when I saw this I had to try it so I could pass along the results here. For a $40 investment, the results are not bad at all! In fact, they do indeed look like some of the results I get from the full frame Leica M with really old 50mm glass.



Wrap up: The lens is available at Amazon HERE, and is prime eligible for $29 and it comes with a Micro 4/3 adapter so you can use it on your Micro 4/3 camera. Amazon prime members even get free 2 day ship! The Nikon 1 adapter needed for use on a Nikon 1 camera is also Prime eligible and is HERE. If anyone buys this set for use on the Nikon 1, you must put the camera into manual mode for it to work, otherwise you will get the warning message on the screen that a lens needs to be attached. So manual aperture, shutter speed and focus. Once you have your meter set, it is as easy as pie to use. I’ll add more images to the Nikon 1 gallery as I get them.

Have fun!



PLEASE 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 (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), 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 :) More info is here on how you can help! 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, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +

Jul 222013

 The Nikon 32 1.2 Lens Review

The Nikon 1 System Nikkor 32 1.2 Lens Review

One of my favorite cameras now has the capability to mount a superfast 85mm equivalent lens that has been much needed since the launch of the camera system. The Nikon 32 1.2 lens for the Nikon 1 System is here and when taking it out to mount it to my V1, it appears to be a masterpiece of design and build quality. After taking a few snaps, it is obvious that this lens is serious about optical performance as well.

Nikon’s own blurb:

“A legendary lens in the making.

One of the most celebrated lenses in NIKKOR’s 80-year heritage is the 85mm f/1.4, often praised as the ultimate portrait lens. Now that same medium telephoto angle of view and outstanding performance is available for your Nikon 1 system—with an even faster f/1.2 maximum aperture. The 1 NIKKOR 32mm f/1.2 (86mm equivalent on Nikon 1’s CX format) combines exceptional optics with lens technologies usually reserved for D-SLR lenses, like Nano Crystal Coat for preventing lens flare (even in direct light) and the innovative Silent Wave Motor (SWM) for ultra-fast, ultra-quiet autofocusing. The 1 NIKKOR 32mm f/1.2 even includes a manual focus ring—another first for a 1 NIKKOR lens. Whether you’re shooting portraits, travel, landscapes or HD videos, the 1 NIKKOR 32mm f/1.2 brings exciting new capabilities to your Nikon 1 system.”


A 32 1.2 Lens for $896? Deal or Rip Off?

Coming in at $896 for a 1 system 32 1.2 CX lens sounds expensive on one end of the spectrum because many will be mounting this lens to a Nikon V1 that they paid $300 for or a V2 that they paid $700 for. Most other Nikon 1 lenses are on the lower end of the cost scale coming in between $190 to $500. The highly regarded 18.5 1.8 is less than $200 but weighs as much as a feather (not really, but it is LIGHT). The 10mm 2.8 can be had for $200 and the 30-110 zoom is $250 or so. So seeing a lens for this system come in at $896 is sort of nuts when you look at it in this light. Why is this one so expensive while the others are on the lower end of the price scale?

This was snapped out of my windshield as I was driving into Sedona, AZ with the Nikon V1 and 32 1.2 lens. Click it for larger!


I can answer that question for you. This is a 32mm lens, but let us just say it is 35mm for the sake of discussion. A 35mm lens is more expensive to make than an 85mm lens or a 45mm lens. Especially when premium glass is used with Nano coatings. Being a 35mm lens with premium build, nano coating, silent wave motor and a manual focus ring means that it will of course be more expensive than the other Nikon 1 lens offerings, not just because of these pro features but because those other lenses are not in the same league where build, feel, and even IQ are concerned. I have not even mentioned that yes, this is indeed a 1.2 aperture lens any ay you look at it.

You will indeed get the light gathering of a 1.2 aperture lens, and speed costs money in the camera lens world. For Nikon 1 users this is a huge bonus as we want a lens that will give us low light ability and some shallow DOF as well. We may not get the same DOF as we would on a full frame camera but it will be about the same as the Olympus 45 1.8 on a micro 4/3 camera. While the Olympus 45 1.8 is $399, less than half the cost of the Nikon, you can not use it on a Nikon 1, the build is not the same as the Nikon, it is not a 32/35mm , it is a 45mm.  It is also a f/1.8 aperture lens and  not an f/1.2 aperture lens.

A storm was a brewin…


So when you look at it in this light, $889 for a 32 1.2 lens sounds about right when you compare it to other lenses in this category, especially since there are no other lenses for the 1 system like this, at all. It is basically an ultra fast 35mm lens but seeing that it is mounted on the 2.7 crop Nikon 1 body, it gives us an 86mm equivalent, so it acts as a super high quality portrait prime, the best lens yet for the Nikon 1. It even has a manual focus ring that when turned, automatically brings up magnification in the viewfinder or on the LCD. The manual focus action is smooth as silk. So for $889, a superfast prime for Nikon 1 shooters is really not a bad deal at all.

Once you shoot with one you will see I speak the truth. Still, many will shun it due to the price and the fact that it is a Nikon 1 system lens, which is a shame. I learned long ago to never judge a book by its cover. Even with me, a guy who used it extensively along with almost every other mirrorless lens out there telling you all this I am sure many will comment that it is overpriced. The ones who say that are the ones who will never touch it, use it or own it.

For the 1st time with the 1 System, you can get shallow DOF without having to be super close to your subject :) 


The Nikon 32 1.2 is well worth it to Nikon 1 shooters who want the best quality lens they can get for this system. It offers build, speed, precision AF, beautiful manual focus ability and yes, even some shallow DOF for us 1 shooters. You could skip this lens and buy a Voigtlander 35 1.2 II and mount it with a Leica M to Nikon 1 adapter but you will lose some sharpness, have to shoot in manual only and lose the blazing fast AF. It will also be much larger and heavier. You will get the same field of view and depth of field and pay $500 more while losing sharpness. So again, looking at it like this makes the Nikon 32 1.2 appear to be a deal.

The 32 1.2 wide open at 1.2 will deliver sharp results and finally, some shallow depth of field for us Nikon 1 lovers. I added grain during a B&W conversion on this one. 


But what if I do not own a Nikon 1 camera? Is it worth buying into?

Many will say that you should not buy into Nikon 1, but I say hogwash. If your requirements are small size, fast and accurate AF, great video, nice build, built in EVF, and nice prime lenses than you have three options. Sony, Olympus or Nikon 1.

Sony: The excellent NEX-7 is still around for $1200 but really good lenses will cost you. The Zeiss 24 1.8 is still one of the best for the system at $1100. The 6 is also great. But it will be slower than a Nikon 1 camera in AF, color out of the camera will not be as good, and you will have larger lenses and more bulk. You will gain the power of a larger APS-C sensor which means better low light and richer files. There is no 85mm 1.2 equivalent made by Sony or Zeiss for E-Mount but there is the 50mm f/1.8 which will give you a 75mm equivalent.

Olympus OM-DThe OM-D has it all. Built in EVF, fast AF, jam packed with features, 5-Axis, etc. So buying an OM-D E-M5 and 45 1.8 will get you the equivilant of a Nikon V1 and 32 1.2. So why go for one over the other? Well, I have both and the new E-P5 here. I have shot with all of these quite a bit. All I can say is that you can still buy a V1 with 10mm prime for $269 with free fed ex express shipping. Add in the 32 1.2 for $900 and you have a $1169 investment. Buy a V2 instead at $700 and you are up to $1600. The Olympus E-M5 will set you back $900 plus $400 for the lens, or  $1300. You will have a more modern feature packed body but you while you gain all of the fancy stuff you will lose on a couple of things over a V1 or V2:

Nikon 1 will win for AF speed, sharpness, and color out of camera. Nikon 1 will be more simple and to the point and Nikon 1 has better video without the jello effect of the Olympus. A Nikon 1 with 10, 18 and 32 will take up much less space in your bag than an E-M5 with 12, 25 and 45.

Nikon V1 with 10, 18 and 32 – Total cost = $1370 – This gives you a 28 2.8, 50 1.8 and 85 1/2 equivalent prime lens set. 

Nikon V2 with 10, 18 and 32 – Total cost $1800 – 

OM-D E-M5 with 12, 25 and 45 – Total cost = $2700 – This gives you a 24 f/2, 50 1.4 and 90 1.8 equivalent prime lens set.

The V1 has a 1/16,000 of a second shutter, so no ND filter required to shoot at 1.2 in full sun.


When you start to add in other lenses the cost rises for the Oly system and the 1 system is less expensive, smaller, faster and with what I feel is better color. BUT, the OM-D E-M5 has a larger sensor, more features, and better high ISO performance. Still, the difference is not that huge and like I said, the Nikon will be sharper if that is your thing. The Olympus will be a little “richer” in its files which can give you a more “pro” or polished look but again, not a huge difference. Just see my Olympus 45 1.8 Lens review HERE and take a look at the images there, and then again at these in this review. Do those strike you as being any better in quality? Hmmm.

So if you are on the fence do know that the Nikon 1 will also give you more noise in the images, even at base ISO, but they will be more film like in their look at the same time. The OM-D will be richer and the Sony NEX series richer still. To those that say the 1 System sucks, you are so wrong! It is a great little system as long as you are not hung up on sensor size. With this 32 1.2 lens added, it made my love grow even more for the 1. You can read my Nikon V1 Review HERE, and my V2 review HERE.


Nikon 1, it’s quite good

So many have dismissed the Nikon 1 system and have called it everything from a “toy” to “junk” to “worthless” and even “bad for photography” but I have been a fan since day one of the Nikon V1 release. I found that even though it had a few issues, the V1 was HIGHLY capable and gave a unique look that no other camera was giving but the speed and AF accuracy is also top notch. I said from the get go that the V1 put out files more film like than other digital cameras, mainly due to the “hard” files that came out of it. These images have grain, grit and superb color right out of the box. Even base ISO has grain, but it is nice. Those who crave large and smooth buttery files will NOT like the Nikon 1 bodies because this is not what they will give in most situations. What it will give you is sharp detailed 10-14MP files with amazing exposure and color. It will give you fast AF in a fun to use format and body. Did I say beautiful color right out of the box?

Right from RAW, this color is SPOT on. Something my Leica M could not do or get close to. The 32 1.2 when wide open delivers super sharpness and nice contrast as well. This is not your old 1950’s tech, this guy is as sharp or sharper than any full frame or APS-C 85mm lens, and yes, you can qoute me on that. I have owned the Nikon 85 1.4, the Canon 85 1.2 and 1.8, the Olympus 45 1.8 and others. 


But enough of the V1 as I went over all of its virtues in the V1 review from long ago, and then the V2 review not too  long ago. Needless to say, I am a fan of the 1 system for what it brings to me: Size, speed, rock solid exposure with an almost film like rendering and gorgeous color with sharp as can be performance. It lacks in the high ISO department, shallow depth of field department and resolution department seeing that the V1 is 10MP and the V2 is 14 MP. But what happens when you attach a nice lens? We finally get “WOW” performance from this little powerhouse system with a nice control over depth of field. We now have TWO amazing lenses for the 1 system, the 18.5 1.8 and this 32 1.2 that is above that one.

Yes my friends, this Nikon 32 1.2 lens is awesome.  What a beauty of a lens it is in just about every way. After using this lens for a while I came to appreciate what it is, what it does and how it transforms my V1 into something else than it has ever been before. I can go for some shallow DOF or some crisp sharp rendering with good dynamic range and splendid color. Nikon 1 gives me better OOC color than my $7000 Leica M 240.

The sensor in the 1 cameras may be small but it is capable of nice results as long as you do not need huge megapixels. The 32 1.2 lens is sharp, crisp and pumps out rich color. The Nano coatings show. Click them for larger!




The 32 1.2 is the best quality lens for the Nikon 1 system. Period.

Those of us who are familiar with the Nikon 1 system know the main weaknesses and high ISO is at the top of the list. Compared to the competition in the APS-C world, the V1 and V2 can not compete at ISO 400, 800, 1600, 3200 or 6400. The noise starts to get worse and creep in at ISO 400 even. But guess what? Film has a way of doing the same thing. I look at the V1 as a mini digital film camera, and know what it will give me in return when I crank it up to ISO 1600 or 3200. Before the 32 1.2 all we had was the 18.5 1.8, which is a GREAT lens but 1.2 is faster than 1.8 so we can now get that extra bit of light to the sensor and lower our ISO or gain faster shutter speeds to eliminate shake.

Wide open at 1.2, shot at a distance. I am so used to shooting 35 and 50 that shooting at 85mm seems odd to me as I am so far from the subject. Still, you can not argue with results like this from a Nikon V1. This is from RAW.



Clouds – 32 1.2 at f/5.6 – converted to HC B&W with Alien Skin


The 32 1.2 also gives us that 85mm equivilant portrait length prime, with some nice shallow DOF. While the DOF can not compete with a full frame camera and 85mm lens, it does compete with the DOF from a 35mm lens, because that is basically what this lens is when rounded up. You can not get the DOF of an 85mm lens from a 32mm lens, period. Still, there is nothing else comparable for the 1 System and this lens delivers the goods in all areas.

Close focus – You can focus as close as 17 inches or 0.4 meters or 16 inches. That’s pretty close for an 85mm equivalent lens.



From RAW showing the Bokeh of the 32 1.2 wide open.


Out of camera color and contrast is superb!


The 32 1.2 also gives us real manual focus control and it feels GREAT and works great on the Nikon V1 and V2 (have not tested on the J series). Yep, the front of the lens has a nice feeling metal manual focus ring that rotates smoothly. As soon as you start to rotate the camera automatically goes into magnify assist mode making it a breeze to get critical manual focus. You also get a meter that pops up in the display to show you where you are at in the focus range. Shooting MF with this lens is a good experience. The AF performance is top notch but sometimes you will want precise control and this lens gives it to us with the 1 series camera.


Do not be afraid of the smaller sensors!

As Craig Litten explained in his excellent V1 article, there is no need to be afraid of small sensor cameras. The Nikon 1 series is a fantastic take anywhere system that while not offering full frame or APS-C performance in DOF and creaminess will give you some things that are better than what a DSLR or larger sensor can give you. For example, with a full frame camera it is very hard to get large Depth of Field (everything in focus) and we usually need to stop down to f/11  to do so. With the 1 series you can stop down a lens like the 32 1.2 to f/5.6 and have a large DOF. At 1.2 you will get shallow DOF. It is the best of both worlds but do not expect full frame f/1.2 shallow DOF performance. Still, the small sensor in the V1 and V2 and even Sony RX100 are splendid for what they are and what they can do and they are highly capable regardless of what the naysayers THINK. Yes, I say think as those who bash this system are those who are just hung up on sensor size.


With the new 32 1.2 lens by Nikon, they have given the 1 series owners what they have been begging for since day one. Now that it is here many are complaining about the price yet I see people every day spend $4000, $6000, and even $11000 on Leica lenses. I see people plunk down $2500 for a Nikon DSLR lens and others pay $1300 for a Micro 4.3 2.8 Zoom. At $896, Nikon delivers a very well made, very well feeling quality fast 32 1.2 lens for the 1 system so us owners can have a fast portrait type of prime. This lens is built to a level much higher than the 18.5 1.8 and even though it is larger, it is still VERY small when compared to other lenses that are 1.2 in aperture, or even 1.4 aperture. It is about the same size as the Panasonic 25 1.4 for Micro 4/3 but feels better made, looks nicer, focuses faster, is silent and will give similar performance. (and looking at my review for that Panasonic 25 1.4, I prefer my images here with this lens by far)


My Final Word on the Nikon 32 1.2 and more on the 1 system.

If you own a 1 system camera and have been craving a fast lens, this is it. If you go for it, you will LOVE it. 

The AF is fast, the lens and camera will even focus in near dark conditions and thanks to the Silent Wave Motor it is QUIET. You can shoot at 1.2 and suck in more light and keep your ISO lower and it is damn good looking on the camera. I say BRAVO to Nikon for this one, it is a  fantastic lens that just made the Nikon 1 system that much better. I just wish they had a 13 f/1.2, 19 1.2 and a 75 1.4 in this quality build. That would be awesome but I am also aware that most 1 series owners are those who are just happy shooting the kit zooms, so I am surprised Nikon released this one at all. I am not sure how many more fast primes they will release, if any, but this one is the real deal.


I enjoyed shooting this lens so much I went ahead and ordered one for my V1 camera. I review and evaluate tons of gear, much more than I even write about on this website. It is not very often that I buy what I review. In the past 6 weeks I have tested the Leica X Vario, Ricoh GR, Zeiss Touit lenses with a Fuji X-E1, Olympus E-P5, Samsung NX300 and this lens. The only one I plunked my money down for at the end of the day is this lens. So there ya go.

Truth be told, I enjoy shooting my Nikon 1 more than I did the Leica X Vario or Fuji X-E1 or Olympus E-P5. I can own any of these cameras as a walk around every day kit but I chose the Nikon 1. So did my son and so did his stepbrother. Pretty crazy but it seems that those who shoot the little NIkon V1 and actually gives it a real go ends up really liking it, and at $269 for the V1 and 10mm 2.8 (while they last) it is the biggest no brainer of the century.


As for this lens, at $890 it is NOT cheap but fast QUALITY glass never comes cheap and if it does it is sadly not to the quality of this lens. Sure the Olympus 45 1.8 is $400 but it is not a 32 1.2. Sure the Sony 50 1.8 is cheaper but it is also not a 32 1.2 lens. The only other lens that comes close to this focal length is the Voigtlander 35 1.2 and that is a $1400 full frame Leica M mount lens and I would bet $100 that it would be less sharp from 1.2 to f/2 on the Nikon V1 or V2! It is also much larger and heavier and while it kicks major bootie as a 35mm lens on a full frame $7000 Leica, it would be no better than this lens on the Nikon 1 as an 85mm.



True you will never get the full frame look of a 35 1.2 on any Nikon 1 camera but that is not what this system is all about. It is about fun, usability, reliability, speed, and yes, color and image quality. It is a take anywhere compact system that gets trashed all over the internet by those who never touched one. No, not everyone will like the look of the files that come from the smaller sensor but this lens makes it much harder to dismiss the Nikon 1 unless you are just a Nikon one trash talker just for the sake of being one.

Yes my friends, the lens is a winner but only you can decide if the cost is worth it to you. If you own a Nikon 1 you owe it to yourself to check it out if you can and you may just fall for it as I did. It’s a beauty and yes, worth the premium price if quality is what you seek.

You can see more images from the Nikon 1 cameras HERE

You can buy this lens at Amazon or B&H Photo at the direct links below:

Buy this lens in Black at Amazon or B&H Photo

Buy this lens in Silver at Amazon or B&H Photo

















PLEASE 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 (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), 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!

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Jun 232013


Day one of the Palouse Road Trip! AMAZING Scenics!

It’s 12:22 AM as I type this, I am dead tired and beat. We shot ALL day around Palouse, WA after a 5 hour drive (including a one hour freeway standstill) to get here. We started our day at 4:30AM and it is just winding down now past midnight with another full day tomorrow starting at 8:45 AM.


This road trip/workshop, so far, has been EPIC! The light, the scenery, the people, the amazing photos coming from this event and our amazing Guide, Ryan McGinty. In fact, it is going so well Ashwin and I have been thinking that we should do this event every year, each year making it a bit different. There is so much to see and photograph here, it is simply overwhelming.

I am tired so must go to bed but wanted to give everyone an update with some of my photos from today. I shot the M 240, the X Vario, and the Fuji X-E1 and Zeiss Touit lenses. The lenses I used on the M 240 were simple. The 15mm Voigtlander, the 50 Voigtlander Nokton and the old Nikkor 85 f/2. Nothing exotic, nothing fancy.

Here are just a FEW of the keepers from today..and excuse if some are off  – 90% of them are OOC JPEGS from the M.

1st one is of Bo Lorentzen with the 50 Nokton 1.5, wide open. 


The image below was shot with an old Canon 85 1.8 that Ashwin let me use for a while. Click it for the full size out of camera file. AMAZING and an old $600 classic in LTM mount.


..and Ashwin being his normal hilarious self! This one with the Nikkor 85 f/2


The two shots below was taken with the 85 f/2 – An old Nikkor classic



Below, the 50 Nokton 1.5 shoots some intense color..


and again, Todd Hatakeyama with the Nikkor 85 f/2 as well as a nice Nikkor landscape




The image below had colors manipulated by me but the moon and rays were there, only the colors have been messed with – I call this “The Land of Oz”


More from the 50 Nokton 1.5 (My review is HERE)

L1001645 L1001648




L1001764 L1001858

…and a few from the Voigtlander 15mm  – M mount. Had to convert to B&W due to the color shifts with this lens




and, the Fuji X-E1 with Zeiss Touit 12mm




..and how about one from the old Canon 135 f/3.5 lens in Leica Screw Mount? A lens that cost $71 and belongs to Ryan, our guide.



..and a few few from the Leica X Vario…JPEGS

This 1st one is of Bob Towery, taken by Ashwin Rao with the X Vario




I have much more but just threw up a few for now! I will post more tomorrow or Monday as I can!

..and this is us, as we waited on the freeway for 90 minutes. We decided to take a group shot with the X Vario



May 292013

USER REPORT: The Nikkor 6.7-13 VR lens review by Steven Norquist

Hi Steve,

I read your review of the V1 about a month ago just before my birthday and your review was so interesting that I decided “what the hell” and I bought a V1 on Amazon with the 10-30mm lens before they were all gone. My little gift to myself. (as if I don’t have enough cameras already!) I started shooting with it and just fell in love with this little camera. It fits the hand so well and is like a baby Leica in feel.

Putting the camera into electronic shutter mode makes it totally silent and vibration free and allows for a top shutter speed of 1/16000 of a second! Amazing.

As I started to process the raw files I was getting some very interesting results. A very open file with lots of dynamic range and sharpness across the whole frame, side to side and front to back. This must be due to the huge depth of field the cx sensor is capable of.

I was so impressed with the little V1 that when I heard the release announcement of the new Nikkor 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 VR Lens and saw the crazy MTF chart at the Nikon website I knew I had to have one.

So I ordered it (at $500 it cost twice what I paid for the V1!).

It is a beautifully made lens. Heavy and made of metal and comes with a nice lens hood which actually does work! The zoom is firm, tight and smooth, no play in there.

The 6.7 looks great mounted on the V1.


I took the 6.7 out on its first shoot at Cabrillo Monument in San Diego. I shot everything in raw using Daylight white balance with a +2 amber boost. Metering was Matrix. All raw images were converted using Adobe Raw and any adjustments were made in both Adobe Raw and Photoshop.

My normal process is simply to bring out of the raw what is already there, to enhance contrast and color in a natural way to achieve a “slide film” style look. The V1 with its lower pixel count 10mp sensor excels in creating that “film like” look in my opinion.

Shot at 6.7mm at F4. Note the foreground foliage is sharp even though I focused on the distant land.


BELOW: 100% crop of the lower left region showing forground and infinity distant objects. All share the same detail level.

crop 1

This lens has very high contrast and very high resolution. Truly amazing detail across the whole frame side to side and front to back. When shot at 6.7mm at f3.5 the lens will vignette very heavily and it is best to stop down to f4 where the corners lighten up by 50% or so. The lens is most sharp at f3.5 and f4. F4 is optimal as the corners will sharpen up a bit and the vignetting will be less.

Color rendition is excellent, spot on with intense saturation. Blues are deep and rich and avoid the cyan shift that can cause that yucky digital blue we all hate.

13mm @ f5.6. I really love the blues this lens produces and the rich yellows and oranges. Reminds me of Velvia film.


Below: and a 100% crop

One-Hundred Percent Crop

At 6.7mm the lens has barrel distortion but it is actually not that bad when you consider that this is a 6.7mm lens! It should have a crazy fish eye distortion but the barrel distortion is not really bad at all and can be corrected in Adobe Photoshop using the Lens correction tool by simply punching in +5 when shooting at 6.7mm. Use lesser correction values as you zoom in with the lens.

By 13mm the lens is straight as an arrow with no distortion or vignetting of interest.

6.7mm @ F4. Distortion corrected in Photoshop by using +5.


Over all I am very amazed by this lens. Nikon really pulled out the stops on this one, it could become a classic. And as the Nikon 1 series cameras mature and their sensors improve over time this lens will be there all the way to squeeze the last notch of resolution out of them. I don’t regret this lens purchase or the V1.

Thanks again Steve for your inspiring reviews and for turning me onto this camera. There ain’t nuthin wrong with 10mp!

Let me leave you with a few last samples.

6.7mm @ F4, no distortion correction.


6.7mm @ F4. Distortion corrected in Photoshop by using +5.


10.9mm @ F5. Love the natural deep greens this lens can produce. Look how pure the white is on those tombstones, no color bleeding.



May 152013


The Classic Nikkor 8.5cm f/2 LTM lens review

click on any image in this review for a larger size image

Ahhh yes. Classic solid brass and chrome lenses from the 1950’s certainly have a charm about them. When you find one, hold one and use one you will indeed say to yourself “they do not make them like this anymore”. While Leica still makes damn finely built lenses today, the prices are so high that I see many shooters priced out of the market. I have friends who save for an entire year just so they can buy one 50 Summilux ASPH. Well, I am here to tell you that if you shoot a Leica M, digital or film, there are some special lenses out there that you can buy for much less than a modern Leica lens and in some cases you may even prefer the output.

While many of these old lenses have poor performance and tons of “glow” (which is another word for “flaws”), many of us love those old flaws and imperfections. Those of us  who use and get to know these old jewel like lenses realize that once you master them they can be quite beautiful, even by 2013 standards. Some of these old lenses are gems..diamonds in the rough so to speak. Many were used by press shooters in the 50’s and many of those swore by this exact lens, the Nikkor 8.5cm f/2. I was lucky enough to find one in LTM mount in quite amazing shape for a screaming deal, chump change for most Leica lens buyers, and I am glad I did.


I found one!

The Nikkor 8.5 f/2 Lens is considered a legend by many shooters in the know and I have been keeping an eye out for a Leica screw mount version for a few weeks without any luck. Suddenly I happened to stumble upon a rare version of this lens at a local Scottsdale, AZ shop called collectiblecameras.com . They had received a “MIOJ” Tokyo version of this lens which is not the oldest version but it is one of those that is harder to find, even more so with a hood, front cap and original rear metal cap. This one had it all, even the matching case for the lens. Score!

When I saw it on their website I bought it and chose to pick up in person and pay in cash. I then picked it up a week and a half later as it was out getting a cleaning and adjust.




When I held the lens I was struck by the beauty of it. The heft. The smoothness of the focus barrel and the great condition it was in for being a 1950’s rangefinder lens. I was put off by the fact that it is a clickless aperture lens and that the aperture dial moves with the focus ring but even so, after firing off a few test shots and seeing how sharp it was wide open as well as the buttery bokeh, I knew had to have it. Whipped out my debit card and made the purchase final. Those are some great guys at collectible and they have loads of old classic gear. You can see their website HERE. You never know, you may find something you like. They also buy and trade old gear.

Shooting the lens at f/2 will give you sharp details at your focus point with a beautiful buttery fall off into melty goo goo land  :)



Indoor at high ISO works as well..


This lens is an all out steal at the prices you can get them for, and the shop where I bought this one even made a goof on the price on this specific lens as they did not realize it was the more rare collectible version. If I did not know any better I would think it was 10 years old, not 60. It is in that nice of condition. The lens competes with lenses like the 75 Lux 1.4 at 1/20th the price. While not as “perfect” as a Leica 75 Lux which is not known for its unique Noctilux type of rendering, the Nikkor has loads of charm and in case I have not said it enough, lovely Bokeh in 90% of situations. This could be called Nikon’s original “Cream Machine”. This is a Sonnar design and it has a great smooth signature with biting sharpness if you indeed nail focus. Best of both worlds in one lens.

Wide open at ISO 6400 on the Leica MM



A portrait classic, 85mm. But the M does not have 85mm framelines!

True! The Leica M cameras do not have 85mm framelines, but it is not so hard to guess when using the 75mm framelines. Once you snap a few shots you will get the hang of what is happening. By using an adapter like THIS ONE you can screw it on the bottom of the lens, snap it to your Leica M and have the 75 lines show up. I took the portrait below and while not framed perfectly, it came out OK for a test shot. It was taken at f/2 wide open. Here you can see the Bokeh in the background is a little “busy”. With foliage it can do that but this is a challenge for any lens.

As for the adapter I have tried quite a few from the $10 cheapies to the $25 mid range to the $50 Voigtlander models. If I were buying from scratch I would go with the Voigtlander adapter. It is the best of the lot. I tried the Kippon adapters and they just do not fit right and are made sort of rough. The $10 cheapies are OK and work but also not up to the quality of the Voigtlander adapters. I have 7-8 adapters here and for this lens I have the Voigtlander attached without any issues.

So yes, you can use this lens effectively on a Leica M camera. It may not have the perfection of the modern lenses, and if shooting professionally I would use modern glass but for those times when you want a little bit of a classic injection, these lenses simply rock.




Think about it, for the cost of one modern Leica lens, say a 35 Lux ASPH FLE you could buy 8-10 classic lenses in all focal lengths and give them a spin, and then sell what you do not want or need without losing anything. You can even do so by using my own buy/sell forum here on this site.

When shooting these old lenses in black & white they can be phenomenal as they were made in the B&W era..it is what they were made for. Usually single coated you will get less contrast and a bit of glow/coma/flare as well. These things can indeed add to the charm of your photos. After all, back in the 50’s there were some astonishing photos made and what lenses were used? Lenses like this one right here.


I Found a 2nd One!

During the 3 days of compiling and writing this review I acquired a 2nd Nikkor 8.5cm Lens from a trade deal I made and it is a later version. A teeny bit smaller, the aperture dial has clicks and goes to f/32 instead of f/16. Optics seem the same in my tests. Since I have acquired a 2nd copy, although without caps, hood or case I am selling the rarer and nicer “MIOJ” version which was responsible for every image in this review. I will keep the 2nd copy as my user. (UPDATE – the “MIOJ” has sold already, minutes after the ad was posted in the buy/sell.)

Fun with the Classics

It is pretty fun to mess around with these old classic lenses. They look great, feel fabulous, are easier on the pocketbook than modern glass and would be easy to resell without losing money after you try them out. After trying several classic lenses I have found 3 that I am thrilled with. One of them is this 85 f/2 Nikkor. While I am not an 85mm or 90 guy, it will get used a few times per year and by spending a few hundred compared to a few thousand it is much easier to justify. :) Dont forget to check out Ashwin Rao’s article where he shared some images from this lens as well.

If you want some of that classic fun with your rangefinder check out lenses like this 85 f/2 or the 35 1.8 or the Canon 50 1.8, Leica 50 Summitar or the Leica 50 Summarit 1.5 (review soon). All fantastic but that is just the tip of the iceberg and each one has their own unique flavor or fingerprint that you just may fall in love with. There are TONS of these beauties out there to unearth :)

But these old classics are not for everyone. For those who want perfection I’d suggest grabbing some of the best Leica M glass made today. The 35 Lux ASPH, the 50 Lux ASPH and the 90 Cron APO just to name a few. Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash and Pro Shop has all of those in stock now :)

if you want more info on this lens, check out this wealth of information on it.






May 022013


The Canon 50 1.8 LTM & W-Nikkor 35 1.8 LTM Lens on the Monochrom – Character galore!

Ahhh, old classic lenses. Sometimes you just gotta love them, sometimes you just gotta hate them, and other times you just want to use them for their unique classic character to inject something cool and different into your photos. True, some of these lenses are gorgeous and some are not so gorgeous but the fact remains. You can get a classic unique rendering and many times on the cheap, especially when compared to big money Leica modern glass.

Since shooting the Leica Monochrom I have discovered, thanks to Ashwin Rao, that sometimes old classics will perform better on this camera than the newest ASPH versions. When I say “perform better” I do not mean “technically” because in that area, the newest lenses from Leica are tough to beat, by anyone. When you want perfection, sharpness and amazing micro contrast it is tough to beat modern Leica glass. Lenses like the 50 Lux ASPH and 35 Lux ASPH FLE are just plain perfection but I remember Ashwin telling me months ago that the modern Leica glass can (at times)  look harsh on the Monochrom and that old glass is where it was at for this camera.

My 1st thoughts were..Hmmm, what about the Leica 50 APO masterpiece? I know that lens rocks on the MM but the more I thought about it the more I was intrigued simply because old classic lenses are MUCH cheaper (usually) than the modern counterparts. A few months ago I was using the beautiful Leica 35 Summilux ASPH FLE on the MM exclusively and did think that some of my results were harsh, mostly the ones in high contrast situations, which makes sense. High contrast lenses like those Leica ASPH lenses can be a bit too much contrast in bright conditions.

When the MM arrived in my hands once again a few weeks ago I was off to KEH, looking for some good cheap glass that I could use on the MM. The hard part is finding it though as many shooters out there buy these lenses up as soon as they appear on the site, but if you check every day you may just find something. I managed to find a Canon 50 1.8 LTM lens for $250. Yep, a teeny tiny fast 50 for $250. Much smaller than my Summilux but I just knew there was no way in hell this lens would even come close to the Lux. I imagined soft wide open, hazy and nasty Bokeh. The lens is a LTM” (Leica Thread mount) so it is not compatible with a Leica M camera as is but a $10-$20 adapter will solve this easily. In the video above I show the adapter and take it on and off. You can see how tiny it is.

The adapter I bought for my Canon 50 is the Voigtlander HERE. More pricey but I like Voigtlander :) You can also buy them cheaply on Amazon HERE. Many prefer the Voigtlander to avoid any focus issues.

So..how did the 50 18 work out for me? I will let you know in a bit but also wanted to talk about another little gem of a lens..a rare gem indeed. A Nikkor 3.5cm 1.8 LTM lens, which is rare and damn expensive for being so old.


The W-Nikkor 3.5cm 1.8 LTM

I was not aware of this little lens until an e-mail came in from Ashwin where he mentioned that once again, KEH had it. Curiosity got the best of me and there it was..a classic Nikkor 3.5cm 1.8 LTM lens but man, it was $1599! It was recently reduced (I was told) from $1799 so this is considered a “deal”. Why so high for an old and aging 35 1.8 lens? Well, this one was rated as “EX” and I guess it is a legendary lens with only 1600 copies ever made worldwide. Before purchasing I made sure I knew the return policy because spending $1700 on a classic old lens is not something I take lightly. If the lens arrived in “BGN” condition or had issues with focus I wanted to make sure it could be refunded. Luckily, KEH has an excellent return policy so my worries were gone. KEH also has a great rep so I was not worried anyway, but still, $1599 for an old lens is nothing to scoff at.

I took it out and tested it out with an ND filter to tame the AZ sun. I wanted to see what this lens would do wide open in regards to Bokeh and character. If usable at 1.8, I would most likely keep it. Below are some samples, click them for larger. The Bokeh is interesting to say the least. VERY classic. When shot in B&W it gives off a nostalgic feel and vibe and on the Monochrom it can indeed take you back. Check out the images below and look at the tones in the image. The contrast with this lens is about perfect.

As always, click on the images for larger 1800 pixel wide versions

One side of the immigration reform fence…




I did some research and could not find too much but did see some on e-bay listed at over $2000 so I guess the pricing was on par, if not better at KEH.

So what did I have to lose? Nothing. What did I have to gain? Maybe a kick ass vintage lens that could indeed  be quite special. I took the risk. Besides, my taxes are paid. My new iMac is installed and all paid for, and I just made the last payment for my Son’s Japan trip. I had a little left over to play with so why not? I placed the order and waited. When it arrived I was shocked at how tiny it is..man, it is SMALL. Much like the old Summilux PRE-ASPH lens from Leica, a lens I have always wanted to own but never could muster up the courage to spend $2300 for a decent copy of. I love the old lenses that have some glow and flare..I call it “character”. The old pre-asph Lux has it in spades but does the Nikkor? Not so much “glow” but it does have a unique rendering that is plenty sharp for what I shoot.

Fast Fact: The Nikon W-Nikkor.C 1:1.8 35mm uses a 7 element 5 group design. The lens also uses rare earth Lanthanum glass to improve performance, which is supposed to help with sharpness and flatness. Pretty cool huh?

…and the other…






In use the lens is very small and compact, much like the classic Leica Summilux Pre-Asph. It is chrome, solid and beautiful to look at. The image quality is indeed different from ANY modern Leica but that is what I like about it. It has some serious character and works very well on the Monochrom. One thing to note is that the aperture dial is in reverse from your normal Leica lenses so you will be twisting the aperture dial in the opposite direction to change the aperture. Doesn’t bother me at all though, especially when I mainly shoot wide open. That is where most of the character lies with this lens, between f/1.8 and f/2.8.

Damn, this lens got me…






So is the lens staying with me? Most likely as I feel it renders in a beautiful and unique way, especially for B&W. It is gorgeous to look at, gorgeous to use and it gives me something totally different from something like a 35 Lux, 35 Cron or Zeiss 35. It gives me a classic look to the images that I quite enjoy. May not be everyone’s cup of tea but for me, it is a winner. Ashwin Rao is also getting to play with one of these this week. I will be looking forward to his shots with this lens. If there is anything I can say about this lens that I am not a fan of..and could be a “make or break” thing for many is that it has a minimum focus distance of 1m like most older RF lenses. The newer 35’s from Leica, Voigtlander and Zeiss focus to .7 meters and allows you to get close. Something to keep in mind.

*If you find one for sale be aware they are sort of rare and do not show up often. Also be aware there are TWO versions. An “S” version for a Nikon Rangefinder and the LTM version. You can not use the S version with your Leica, so if you buy one for your M use be sure it is a LTM version.


The Canon 50 1.8 LTM on the Monochrom

The Canon 50 1.8 LTM is a double whammy lens because is gorgeous AND cheap!  Teeny tiny, solid, metal build, and pretty fast at 1.8. No, it is not a 1.4 but Canon also makes a 1.4 LTM that is supposed to be superb-o. But I am not disappointed in the slightest with the 1.8, in fact, I am beyond thrilled. For $250 plus adapter cost I have a lens that renders beautifully on the MM. I also tried it on the M 240 and found it to be nice there as well, but the color was a little different from what came from the Lux. The contrast is softer but the lens is still sharp. Below are a few test snaps I shot, you can click them for larger views. I do know the last two were at 1.8 and the 1st one may have been at f/2 or 2.8. At $250 this lens is a no brainer if you want to test out some vintage glass.




I find the Bokeh pleasant, the lens is plenty sharp enough wide open and it gives us a little of that classic MOJO many of us like from time to time. Even shooting at night at ISO 1600 you can get a very nice look and honestly, not far off from some much more expensive glass.  The 1st image below is an OOC JPEG from the MM at 1.8 using the Canon 50 1.8 LTM, the 2nd one is wide open at 1.8 from my “glasses” series using the same glasses on all who I meet or can talk into wearing them for a snapshot :)



So as you may have guessed, I highly recommend this lens on the Monochrom. It has character (but not too much) and it has most of the things we look for in a Leica lens. Small size, quality build and feel, sharpness, contrast and pleasant bokeh. In fact, I find the bokeh to be gorgeous. Maybe I got a good copy but I hope they are all like this one. At $25o I find it the Deal of the Century in the world of classic Leica glass.

On the Leica M 240:

The lens on the M 240 will give you a low contrast look with decent sharpness and a more “vintage” type of color, which is usually more washed out. But I find the results pleasing and a break from the “Hyper Contrast and Color” norm:


But do not take my word for it, hear what Ashwin Rao has to say as he has been shooting this lens much longer than me…

Words on the Canon 50 1.8 LTM by Ashwin Rao

Hi everyone, I wanted to provide a second perspective of the diminutive but fantastic Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM lens. I have become a huge fan of Canon rangefinder lenses in my journeys with the Leica M Monochrom, and the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM is no exception. This particular lens was designed by one of Canon’s legendary lens designers, Hiroshi Ito, who is credited with many designs that rivaled or even surpassed the performance of Leitz glass of the same era. The Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM remained in the lens line up for many years, undergoing cosmetic changes while the optical formula remained the same. For those of you who care about such details, The Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM is a double-gaussian design, which is also today called a “Planar” design. While the glass used and exact placement of lens elements varies a bit from lens to lens, planar lenses retain a certain look and richness that’s a product of their formulation.

In considering my options for the M Monochrom, I wanted to build a stable of vintage lenses through which to see the world in black and white. Whenever I used more modern lenses, I found their character to be too clinical or too contrasty on the monochromatic sensor. While others have been able to make this combination of modern glass and monochrome sensor work, I have had a harder time, and so I turned to older lenses. What I have discovered has been a revelation to me. These older lenses often resolve quite well, in fact impressively well, while imparting a wonderful character that’s more classic and filled with character than their modern brethren. Sometimes, the character is harsh, and at other times, it’s surprisingly pleasant. Such is the case with the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM, one of the most pleasant rendering lenses on the MM. I have really enjoyed how the lens renders skin tones (almost looks like silver halide prints, where skin tones really shimmer). Out of focus elements (i.e. “bokeh” ) can be fantastic or jarring, depending on the context, but more often than not, everything is quite pleasing in a vintage sort of way. One of the biggest surprises that I experienced with this lens on the MM is how well it resolves. This is a lens that keeps up with the sensor, even when used wide open. It’s really incredible, and one of the mysteries that I have discovered with the Monochrom’s sensor. Some lenses that appear to perform poorly on the M9 really impress on the MM’s sensor, and I would put this lens in that category.

I find it to perform adequately on my M9, but it’s not a lens that I’d typically reach for on that camera. On the MM, it’s almost always one of the first lenses that I consider. The fact that it’s tiny, well-built, and images on part with such legends as the Leica and Leitz Summicron lenses makes it a worthy companion for the MM. I picked mine up from KEH for less that $250, and my copy is a later design with a black and chrome coloring (rather than all chrome). So for those of you who are looking for a bargain now that you may have invested heavily in the M Monochrom, this is most certainly a lens to consider adding. I have enjoyed it more than Canon’s more extensive faster offerings (50 mm f/1.2, 50, mm f/1.4, and 50 mm f/1.5), and it can be had for a very pleasing price. Pleasing images & pleasing price: what more could one ask for?!?





Dec 052012

1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 lens for CX format Lens Review

By Craig Litten

See his website HERE



I’ve been looking forward to getting this lens ever since it was announced. Primes are always welcome, and I hope the Nikon will keep them coming. If you’re a regular reader of Steve Huff Photo, then you probably know that I’m a big fan of the Nikon V1. To keep it in perspective though, the Nikon 1 system has its place. It is not necessarily to be used as your main camera, but rather for specific purposes or shoots. But if you’re a street photographer or you travel a lot, the Nikon V1 could very well be your main camera, it’s that good. As much as I wish there was a one-camera solution for every situation, there isn’t. The Leica M has its place, the Canon EOS-1D X has its place and the Sony X100 has its place. All vastly different cameras to fill different needs or desires. The world would be a very boring place if everyone drove the same car wouldn’t it? But we don’t park next to someone at the mall, get out of our cars and ridicule them for choosing to drive a Nissan Cube do we (I think the Cube is cool by the way)? So Nikon 1 naysayers can look elsewhere because you cannot, nor ever will, be convinced. Secondly, the images in this lens review are not a portfolio, but they are meant to show a variety of situations, angles, f-stops, etc. to give you, the one who is considering a purchase of this lens, an idea of what the lens can do. I see so many poor sample photos shot with new lenses on the Internet than I can hardly believe, which is one reason why I personally come back to Steve’s reviews. If he says it’s good and gives it a thumb’s up, then I don’t think twice about it.

So whether this lens is for you or not, you’ll have to decide. But like the wildly popular Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, it checks all the right boxes. It’s cheap, light, fast, sharp and a great bargain. When it was announced I immediately pre-ordered it at B&H Photo, but I probably didn’t need to since I don’t think it will be a hot seller like the Sony 24mm f/1.8 E-Mount Carl Zeiss Sonnar lens or other lenses like it, so it should always be in stock. This lens is not exotic, but more of a utility lens that can be used in almost every situation, everyday and especially in low light. As of writing this, B&H has all three colors, black, silver and white, in stock HERE. So, to summarize the above paragraph: if you are a Nikon 1 hater, please be kind or stop reading now. I’ve always been a fan of the underdog, and that’s exactly what Nikon has here in the Nikon 1 System. It’s a camera that caused a big stir, but then was soon forgotten. But at its current price, $299 HERE at B&H, it’s an absolute steal. Yes STEAL! You can revisit my review HERE or other reviews by Colin Steel HERE on this very website. Maybe now that the price is reasonable to the masses, you may reconsider. Plus you can pick up this fantastic, tiny wonder-of-a lens for under $200. (The V1 Ultimate Kit is now half off as well at B&H)


Immediately after taking the lens out of the box and handling it, I noticed how light it is, it’s a featherweight. It feels almost hallow like the lens consists only of the outer lens barrel, the mount and the front and rear elements but is empty inside. But unlike its DX counterpart, it has a metal mount–a must for any lens I own period. So even though it’s light, it seems to be well built. Not Voightlander well built, but this new-day-of-digital-cheap-lenses well built. I also examined it to see if the lens barrel was metal or plastic. Yesterday I concluded it was plastic, but today I think it may be metal, but I’m not 100% sure and Nikon doesn’t say. I did compare it to my 1 Nikkor 10mm f/2.8 lens, which has a metal barrel and seems heavier and much denser. After having the lens sit on my desk overnight, the barrel is slightly cold to the touch, like the 10mm, which makes me wonder if it is metal after all. I also own the Panasonic Lumix Leica D Summilux 25mm f/1.4 for the Four Thirds system, and it has a metal lens barrel, which seems very cold to the touch. Plastic never feels cold to the touch though. Even though all the 1 Nikkor prototypes were in shiny metal, I have a feeling that this lens is plastic. If anyone can verify this, I’d love to know. No matter, it’s still well put together and you can read about the usual specs at Nikon USA.

There’s not much else to say. It comes with the usual 5-year Nikon USA warranty, which is great. It’s solid, light and doesn’t rattle or move when you shake it. It takes the usual 40.5mm filters, which are slightly hard to find, and the plastic Nikon HB-N101 lens hood fits snugly (I can’t say that about all lens hoods for other systems), looks cool and works perfectly.


First off, those reading this review that are not familiar with the Nikon 1 system may not know exactly what this lens is. The 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 lens is for Nikon 1 CX format cameras only. The Nikon 1 camera has a small one-inch sensor that you must multiply a given lens focal length by 2.7x to figure out the exact focal length. So this 18.5mm lens is a 50mm equivalent standard f/1.8 lens.



The lens is slightly smaller and lighter than the standard 10-30mm kit zoom, and balances perfectly on the V1. It has just enough size, protruding out from the camera body, to hold comfortably. And it’s light enough not to be noticed.

1. Focus

Focus is instant and silent just like the 10mm f/2.8 pancake lens. It locks on instantly and rarely racked. The focus did rack (back and forth once not multiple times—in other words, it did not hunt) only a few times, and I shot hundreds of photos, but it always locked on immediately afterwards. But mostly because I was putting the lens through it’s paces shooting every type of situation I could think of. The Nikon 1 system is known for it’s incredible fast and accurate focus, and the 18.5mm f/1.8 was in line with the already existing lenses. I did notice that the 18.5mm racked a bit more than the 10mm pancake though, and it could be because the elements have to travel further, I’m not sure. But it is nothing to worry about or even give a second thought. I was a Canon shooter for 11 years and the Canon lenses rack like crazy (sorry Canon shooters, but it’s true), so even top pro systems and L glass rack focus.

Focus is also very accurate. Only on one or two shots did focus not lock into place, and I didn’t notice until I got back to the computer to edit. I don’t look at every photo I shoot while out in the field. I haven’t used the 10-30mm kit lens a lot, but I feel that the focusing on the 18.5mm lens is better that that of the 30-110mm telephoto 1 Nikkor zoom lens. It was able to focus, in complete darkness over a completely black body of water on a string of lights running across the center of the frame. The string of lights was so small in the frame that they almost couldn’t be seen. The auto focus auto point selector picked it out and instantly focused on it. Amazing. One of the shots included in the article was shot on a pier at night under incredibly low light. The focus didn’t hesitate at all and locked in on the subject immediately. So, in conclusion, the focus is both fast and accurate and in line with the Nikon 1 system and the other 1 Nikkor lenses.

2. Handling

The lens handles perfectly. Again, it’s small and super light, so you hardly notice it, which is one of the pluses of the Nikon 1 system. The lens never gets in the way of itself.

3. Sharpness

I’ll let the test images speak for themselves. I have included several full size copies for you to download and examine. NO sharpening has been applied during processing or in camera. All photos were shot RAW+JPEG, but the samples where from the RAW processed though Lightroom 4. There are many samples shot at f/1.8, an f-stop most of us want to know about to see if this lens is worth the asking price. These are sharp, very sharp. Plus there are also samples at f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6 and f/8. I’m a photographer who makes 100% of my living at photography, not a lab technician of a test chart shooter. But I’m personally impressed with the output of this lens. Both wide open and stopped down. I really didn’t notice much difference, but also didn’t spend hours pixel-peeping the files. To me, they look good. This lens, even wide open at f/1.8, is good enough for paying gigs. Enough said.

4. Distortion

In practical use, shooting people and most subjects, you will not notice much if any distortion. But when shooting a horizon such as at the beach, you will notice a slight bend downwards. Also when shooting near a wall. In the photo with the white egret on the black fishing nets you will notice the slight curvature in the barn siding to the bottom left of the frame. You can also see slight rounding on the top and bottom of the night photo of the wooden fish sign shot through a window. Notice the “Bridge Tender Inn” sign at the top and the “fresh fish” sign at the bottom, both have a slight curvature. On the other hand, Vignetting is very slight but I really didn’t “notice” it during practical use. Finally, purple and green fringing reared its ugly head in one photo, the wind chime in front of a screen, shot wide open at f/1.8 and with extreme backlighting. I didn’t notice it any other time though, and don’t think it’s anything to worry about.


If you’re a Nikon 1 owner (whether the J1, J2, or V1, V2) this lens is a no-brainer, just buy it. For $186.95 it’s well worth it. It finally gives Nikon 1 owners a fast option for low light. Although I think files out of the V1 are very pleasing up to and including ISO 800, and sometimes even ISO 1600 if exposed correctly, this will give users an option to shoot at much lower ISOs in a given lighting situation, and as you can easily see from the sample photos, some fairly nice bokeh. If you are not currently a Nikon 1 owner, maybe this lens and the currently ridiculously low price of the wonderful V1 will push you over to the dark side. Since I am a photojournalist by profession, I shoot almost exclusively with zoom lenses or I wouldn’t be able to compete. There simply is not enough time to change lenses in this fast-paced profession. So I found it a real pleasure to shoot with a 50mm equivalent prime lens. It is a great focal length and always seemed to be ‘just right.’


As I’ve already mentioned, the Nikon HB-N101 lens hood, designed for the 1 Nikkor 10-30mm kit lens, works perfectly on the 18.5mm lens. But the Nikon HN-N101 metal lens hood, designed for the 1 Nikkor 10mm f/2.8 pancake lens, works well too with no vignetting in the corners. The metal hood is very low profile and will most likely not give you the coverage that the plastic bayonet hood will. I use the metal hood exclusively on my 10mm pancake, and have never had any flair issues. This entire review was shot with the metal hood on my 18.5mm lens that I borrowed from my 10mm pancake. I just ordered a second one that will live on the 18.5mm lens. I love it because it can also be fitted with a screw-on metal lens cap (which I also own), the HC-N10, to make it a tiny, low profile package but still offering the protection of a lens shade. Nikon also makes a very nice, inexpensive lens pouch, CL-N101, that will easily hold the 18.5mm, the 10mm pancake, the 10-30mm kit zoom and even the new 11-27.5 pancake zoom with hoods attached. It features a stiff, padded bottom, a drawstring interior, and a Velcro flap. It’s also very soft, flexible, easy to store and comes in red, black and white. But for some reason the red and white versions are more expensive.

Craig’s Website is HERE

Craig’s Street Shooting Workshops can be found HERE

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