Feb 112013
 

My Wicked Journey (back) to the Fuji X100

by Kevin Preblud

My own photographic odyssey began while in Junior High School, shooting black and white on a Nikon FE. I learned about f stops, shutter speeds, film speed, as well as how to develop my own film and print my own photos in an old fashioned darkroom. There was rarely a moment when that Nikon wasn’t slung across my shoulder like a musician with his guitar.

Over the years the depth of my passion ebbed and flowed depending on various life factors, but ultimately the birth of my first child in the early 1990’s, conveniently coinciding with the availability of affordable consumer digital cameras, was the convergence of events that put me on the road that has led me to where I am today.

Over the years, another child was born and various individual and family milestones were recorded for digital posterity. But it wasn’t until my children became involved in a variety of youth sports, that I truly picked up where I had left off with that Nikon at the end of my own childhood. It was time to jettison the pro-sumer digital point and shoot, and get back to the SLR world, albeit a digital one.

Once again my trusty dSLR was rarely missing from my side, shooting every sporting and school event that was on the calendar, at times, even for other parents who knew they could count on me to capture those precious moments of their children while I was for mine.

With both kids now in High School and still active in several sports, I spend many fall and spring afternoons photographing their various games, again now not only for myself, but for the teams as well. While this is the worst paying job I have ever had, the satisfaction of seeing the kids faces as they view their action photos online, like a professional athlete, is payment and satisfaction enough.

But like many fans of this site, while researching the mirrorless revolution, in an effort to add a less bulky camera to my toolbox, I found Steve’s review of the Fujifilm X100. That was it! I didn’t have to read another review. The X100 appealed to me in on so many levels; form, function, image quality, size, and most importantly, a return to the basics I remembered from my Nikon FE. It had a dedicated aperture ring, shutter speed dial, and exposure compensation dial; all the basics I had started with nearly a quarter century earlier.

I immediately went online and made my purchase. Upon arrival, the X100 did not disappoint. It was a rare combination of art and utility, like a fine writing instrument, not usually found outside of the Leica world. I must however admit, it took a bit of time to re-acclimate myself with non-automatic photography, but the more I did, the better the results and my personal satisfaction. As well, like so many others have said elsewhere, the X100 is an eye-catcher. The uninformed don’t know if it’s new or old, film or digital, but the intrigue easily draws them in front of the lens with little anxiety. People want to be photographed with this camera. People want to touch and feel it, making the whole photographer/subject dance much less intimidating and far more engaging.

Sadly however, I suffer from technology BBD (bigger better deal). Despite how much I had come to enjoy the X100, and how much I saw my candid and street photography improve, I wanted the next best thing. No thanks to Steve, I abandoned and sold my X100 for what sounded like the next best Fuji, the X-E1. Sure, there were AF improvements, interchangeable lens capability, and a better sensor, but I quickly realized that although the X-E1 was an improvement on paper, I missed my trust X100. In short order, I returned the X-E1 and went back online to eBay in this case, and re-acquired my trusted companion, another X100.

The bliss returned and we were back in business. You would think the lesson was learned, but yet again, and in no small thanks to Steve and his wonderful review, I was back on the BBD program looking to acquire a Sony NEX 6. So, out the door X100 No. 2 went and in the door came the NEX 6. Certainly the Sony is an able and accomplished camera, but I quickly realized it was no Fuji X100. All the reviews said it has better AF, better IQ, and better functionality, but at the end of the day, it just didn’t “fit” me like the X100. So, once again, back went the NEX for return, and back I went to eBay for X100 No. 3. While I’m not sure how much I have cost myself thru the various exchanges, I can promise that this is the last time the X100 goes out the door……..until of course the recently announced FujiFilm X100s I have pre-ordered, arrives at my door step. I promise I will remain faithful until then!!

The following photos are from a nighttime shooting excursion along Colfax Avenue in Denver. Colfax was the primary East-West artery thru Denver before the advent of the Interstate Highway System. Playboy magazine once called Colfax “the longest, wickedest street in America.” Colfax still continues to provide a variety of photo opportunities; from old neon-lit hourly motels and dive bars to recent urban redevelopment including outdoor shopping malls and the latest trends in fine dining.

Oddly, for one of the X100’s most harsh criticisms, low light shooting, I found it to be a jewel to work with, and I was very pleased with the results. Sure it takes care to be certain of your focus point, but like anything, once you get used to its intricacies; both positive and negative, they become practically insignificant.

And so, although not slung over my shoulder like the old film Nikon FE, my Fuji X100 is once again a constant and convenient companion in my coat pocket……My Journey (back) to the FujiFilm X100!

MY NIGHT ON COLFAX WITH MY FUJI X100:

“THE WICKEDEST STREET IN AMERICA“

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Want to write an article about  your favorite camera, lens or photo experience? It’s simple! Just write to me for details HERE!

Feb 042013
 

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The Sony RX1 in B&W by Steve Huff and other RX1 owners

The Sony RX1 has been out for a few months now and many owners have been happily shooting with the camera, myself included. Sure, I have access to just about any camera out there on the market but for my personal use I keep 2-3 cameras on hand and lately, my RX1 has taken the #1 spot for my personal shots, family use, etc. It is a jewel of a camera and I have been using it almost daily since it arrived to me and I have yet to have any issues with the camera, no matter what my situation.

That is not to say that if the new Leica M 240 is everything it is cracked up to be that it will not be added to my arsenal, but I can state with 100% certainty that this RX1 is here for the long haul, much like my M9 was.

It is just such a joy and pleasure to use and while not perfect (no camera is) the results that come from this little guy are so damn pleasing. I have recently found out that due to the dynamic range and high ISO capability and sharpness/character of the Zeiss lens that has been matched and attached to the camera that when shooting plain old B&W JPEG with the camera set to B&W the output is quite amazing.

In my review I touched on how easy and simple it is to get results with this camera..without having to fight it for those results. When you mix that with everything else the camera offers, your JPEGS come out looking GREAT and if you want that last ounce of performance then shooting RAW will take you there. I have been hearing from many owners of the RX1 who feel the same way as I do and they also love shooting it in B&W and for the most part, these shooters are just like me, enthusiasts who appreciate great cameras and gear but also LOVE shooting and capturing those memories.

Just a few days ago I noticed that many of the photos posted in the RX1 group on facebook were being posted in B&W. It seems others were coming to the same conclusions that I was..that the RX1 is a great B&W shooter and a fantastic street camera as well.

It also happens to be amazing in color and if you have not yet seen the shots over at the RX1 files HERE or my RX1 gallery HERE then take a look :) Yes, it is expensive. But it does what it is advertised to do and it does it very well while being very solidly built and like I said, it has never given me one issue.

Direct from camera JPEG. Had the camera set to shoot in B&W with lower contrast by 1. Click it to see a larger image, and yes, this is my Son Brandon. Time flies huh?

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and how about one at ISO 25,600 in a dark restaurant? With Todd Hatakeyama

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EXIF is embedded in all photos and you must click them for larger views or to download them

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Others who own and shoot the RX1..

Phillip Lieu

Waterfall-for-Steve

“Due to the extremely high tonal/dynamic range achieved by the RX1 sensor, B&W output from this tiny wonder is producing results that are so rich and mesmerizing, it redefines the genre altogether!” 

Sincerely,

Philip Liew

BTW, There’s a link to DXO labs that I setup which you may find helpful -http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Cameras/Compare-Camera-Sensors/Compare-cameras-side-by-side/(appareil1)/833%7C0/(brand)/Sony/(appareil2)/793%7C0/(brand2)/Olympus/(appareil3)/695%7C0/(brand3)/Fujifilm . It’s comparing RX1, OMD-5 & Fuji X100 head to head. As this is a B&W review, please click > Measurement > Tonal range. As you move the mouse cursor to the vertical color bar on the right, it shows how having a great Tonal Range vs ISO affects the B&W output.

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Steve Wong

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Why I like the RX1:

I love having a compact camera that allows for stunning captures in any light. Despite the drawbacks, it is simply the most enjoyable camera I’ve ever had a chance to use.

Steven Wong

http://www.flickr.com/photos/silvernitratephoto/

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Justin Greene

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“Full frame goodness in a small package.”

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Alexander Ess

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The RX1 is for me a good tool for my passion street photography. Street photography is to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, to highlight the poetry and the simple feeling of human endeavor.
simply moments of life.  If you won’t mind I would be very grateful if you could find some time and look on my photos
Sincerely
Alex
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Eric Berg
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I love shooting with the RX1 for black & white images, as a digital student of photography it is quite difficult to see in black & white. The RX1 and its evf not only inspire but aid in training your eye to see in black & white.
Eric Berg
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Syuck Saito
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I sent you two photos taken with the RX1. Best camera I have ever had, period. Thanks for your reviews which helped me make the purchase.

SK Saito
Blue35photography

 

 

Feb 012013
 

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Using the Hasselblad 200 FC/M for Street Photography by Jerry Bei

“UFO” Kodak Ektar 100

UFO

Hi Steve:

I am a street photographer based in Sydney and I have a strong passion for photography in general. I used the Leica M9 and MP as my main tools for street photography in the past couple of years but recently decided to acquire something different. The temptation of medium format have always been there but I could not justify the cost of digital medium format cameras, at least for now.

Hasselblad has always been my dream medium format camera and luckily I got the chance to buy a Hasselblad 2000FC/M camera body with a A12 magazine at a very reasonable price that got me started into medium format. The world of medium format film photography was new to me so I had to learn everything from the start. I got a grasp of how the Hasselblad V system works very quickly since I had quite a bit of experience shooting film before.

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First thing I noticed when holding the camera is its superb build quality, I have held many Leica cameras before but this thing is different, it is built like a tank; heavy and solid. The Hasselblad 2000FC/M with a lens attached is significantly heavier than my Leica M9 with a 50 Summilux ASPH combo but still lighter than a full-frame DSLR setup.

“Black Riders” Ilford HP5+

Black Riders

The viewfinder on the Hasselblad V system is like nothing else I have experienced, big and beautiful. It is almost like a live-view 3 inch LCD screen in the modern days but even better since it is all optical rather than electronic. Viewing through the viewfinder is a pleasure and truly a treat to eyes. I have upgraded the original stock viewscreen to a even brighter Accute Matte D screen that helps to achieve faster and more accurate focusing for street photography.

The Hasselblad V system is equipped with a waist-level viewfinder and it is perfect for street photography. You can simply hold the camera at your waist aimed at your subject and most people don’t even know that you are taking a picture. It’s discreteness is perfect for the streets. The shutter click sound is no where as quite as a leaf shutter or Leica quietness but it is still a pleasure to hear the mirror flipping when the shutter fires.

“Circus Lady” Kodak Portra 400

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“Gossip Girls” Kodak Portra 400

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One of the big advantage of the Hasselblad system over other medium format film systems is its inter-changeable backs, which allows swap between different films on the go. There are several different types of film magazines available that can shoot different number of exposures. The most common is the A12 magazine, which allows photographers to shoot 12 frames of 6×6 exposures of 120mm film. You simply insert the dark slide to remove the film back and apply another back loaded with the film you desire. Therefore, you don’t have to wait until all exposures to be finished and able to shoot B&W or Colour during the same photo-shoot.

The lenses are made by Carl Zeiss thus equates to superior image quality. There are several different types of lenses for the V system, some with lens built-in Synchro Compur shutter like in C and CF lenses and some without that uses the in-camera shutter like the F lenses. My Hasselblad 2000FC/M can uses all three types of lenses since it has a built-in shutter and a top shutter speed of 1/2000 second. The optics are all made by Carl Zeiss and has the typical Zeiss quality with its renowned 3D rendition. Some people buy the system because of their famous lenses. There are also difference in lens coating and are noted by the T* sign. The lenses I used are the Carl Zeiss 150mm F4.0 CF T* lens which is equivalent to 94mm in 35mm format, which is the perfect lens for head and shoulder portraits. I am also using the “magical” lens in the Hasselblad world , the Carl Zeiss 100mm F3.5 C T* lens that is equivalent to 63mm and it is a mysterious lens that is rarely used but contains some magical qualities. One day I hope to get the “Noctilux” of Hasselblad, which is the Carl Zeiss 110mm F2 lens that will produce stunning bokeh!

I loved shooting with 35mm film on my MP, although the film qualities are presented i.e. the great exposure latitude, dynamic range and tonality but the sharpness is not up to the standard that I desired. Medium format film seems to be the “Perfect” solution for this, it has incredible sharpness, even at 100% crop looks tack-sharp amazing to me. Although with the significant gain of resolution over 35mm film but it still retains all the film qualities that makes it so attractive. There is also a great gain in shallower Depth-of-Field and the bokeh from the lenses are incredible. The frame is 6×6 which makes it a unique square shape that stands out from all other images. I have yet to print those images in large sizes but have heard that you can even blown them up to 2 by 2 meters prints, which is perfect for commercial usage.

It has been a real joy to use the hasselblad and I am still amazed at its quality. While my journey in the medium format world continues that I would highly recommend for anyone wanting try out medium format film photography : do not hesitate!

Please feel free to visit my Flickr or 500px to see more of my work:

Flickr: HYPERLINK “http://www.flickr.com/photos/jerrybay/” http://www.flickr.com/photos/jerrybay/

500px: HYPERLINK “http://500px.com/jerrybay” http://500px.com/jerrybay

 

“Father & Son” Ilford Delta 400

Father & Son

 

“Hairy Chest” Ilford HP5+

Hairy Chest 

“1958 Chevrolet Corvette” Ilford HP5+ 

1958 Chevrolet Corvette

“French Nun” Fuji Reala 100

French Nun 

“In the Wind” Fuji 400H

In the Wind

Jan 212013
 

Street Photography in Paris by Paul Perton

It’s late May and I’ve been very glad of the central heating in my room when I’ve got up at 06:00 and stottered back into my room after 23:00 most nights. When I first arrived, I was puzzled that the central heating was still on. Now I’m very glad of it and on a number of occasions used the radiator as a clothes horse to get shirts and fleeces dry before my daily routine kicks-in once again.

Why am I mentioning this? I’m in Paris and was expecting the weather to be somewhat better, as did the thousands of tourists that flock every street, corner, restaurant, café and museum.

Peter Turnley is the reason I’m here. He’s a sometime Paris resident going back three decades and a street photographer somewhat in the mould of Cartier-Bresson and Doisneau, albeit younger. Peter’s street workshop started on Saturday and has eleven of us walking the streets photographing les Parisiennes as they go about their daily business.

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The chilly and damp tourists are of little interest to us; they only hide the real city; ancient, full of light and entirely enchanting.

I haven’t been in Paris for some years and find my hard-learned post-school colloquial French has completely deserted me. In it’s place the awkward sounds and flat vowels of Afrikaans spring to mind as I try to make myself understood. This is a solo trip; Mrs P is at home dealing with builders and so, no use in the translation department.

Despite my clear British heritage, I lie a lot when I’m in France; “Non. J’habite á l’Afrique du Suid” being my biggest porkie. That immediately seems to put the French at ease and like me, which wouldn’t usually happen were I to confess to my real pom roots. At that point experience has taught me that the French invariably sneer, or shrug, but either way, provide absolutely no assistance or succour, depending on what I seek. Pretending to be South African is expedient to say the least.

Curiously, the city does seem to have become somewhat less parochial and on this trip and I hear English spoken everywhere, including the Metro. That’s a definite plus.

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Back to the workshop. Peter Turnley is one of a rare breed; a photojournalist that has managed to forge a hard-won reputation for being in the right place at the right time, camera in hand. He is attempting to inculcate us with some of his street wisdom and I for one have felt a significant change in my photographic attitude since arriving here.

The ten others on the workshop are having similar experiences, with varying degrees of photographic success. Peter’s style is as you’d expect for a successful photojournalist; direct and somewhat confrontational. The streets of Paris aren’t a war zone, or a refugee camp in Somalia and I find myself wondering whether such an in-your-face style is justified. His photographs speak otherwise and we are all finding ways to adapt his guidance to our own styles.

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After an orientation meeting and dinner on Sunday evening, the pattern of our days quickly takes shape; shoot, edit and submit a day’s images for group discussion and selection, then it’s back out on to the streets for another go-round.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are chilly, overcast and rainy by turns. As the week progresses however, the weather improves as do our skills. Those readers familiar with my early morning habits won’t be remotely surprised to find I was out on the streets at around 07:00 – earlier than that and there really wasn’t sufficient light pour la photographie.

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Slowly, we each built a group of selected images on Peter’s computer, the aim being 15 photographs from each of us that would be collected into an end-of-workshop show featuring the work of the entire group.

Interwoven with shooting and discussion were two guest discussions; Voya Mitrovic the Serbian-born darkroom superstar who printed for Cartier-Bresson and an entire galaxy of other Paris-based photographers of that era. He also prints for Peter and his work is full of the love, care and tonality that only a master of his craft can produce.

The second talk came from Gerard Uferas, a master photographer, with a passion for the opera, ballet and haute couture. By his own admission, a sensitive and complexed man, he showed us a collection of the most exquisite, textured and colored photographs. Unusually with a group of people all from various walks of life, the impact Uferas’ work left every one of silenced and awed by it’s sheer beauty.

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Meanwhile, my meanderings saw almost 100km disappear under the soles of my shoes, countless cups of café créme, beer and as is to be expected, fine food. On the latter, I should mention a plât du jour lunch of lamb rib chops, a cassoulet fit for a king and on two separate occasions, a wing of exquisitely prepared skate with beurre noisette and capers. For food like that, I’d (almost) live here.

Friday was deadline day for our photographs, as the final show was due on Saturday morning, along with a viewing of the individual portfolios we bought from our various homes. An unusual decision to view this work so late in the day, defended by Peter who makes the valid point that to see this work before setting-out might reveal a professional, or specialist photographer, whose input could adversely impact the hopes and plans of everyone else. Good point.

So, that was it. a week in Paris. Howling wind and rain at La Défense, mellow afternoon sunshine at Pont des Arts, magnificent buildings and some of the worlds most visually interesting people. How bad could that be?

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Jan 152013
 

WORKSHOP: Daytona Bike week with Craig Litten 

March 14-17th 2013 – Daytona Beach, FL

Workshop Signup Page and more details are HERE

 

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UPDATE: I will not be able to make the workshop with Craig but it is going on 100% full steam ahead as it is Craig’s workshop, and I HIGHLY recommend it.

Come one, come all! This is going to be one hell of a photo workshop with so many photo opportunities surrounding you at all times you may just go into sensory overload. Craig Litten and I have teamed up to bring you this AMAZING opportunity to explore your photography limits as you learn how to get comfortable shooting people. In fact, you will have no choice but to get comfortable shooting people as that is all we will be doing!

This workshop is just that, a workshop. Craig Litten will be the main teacher for this one and I will be on hand as well for any questions and of course to shoot with everyone. Craig has done this event many times before and has shot some amazing images that make you say “I wish I was there to document it all”!

Well, now you can be as this will be a 3 day workshop allowing you to grow and open up as a photographer in a crazy environment filled with all kinds of opportunities.

All photos on this page were shot by Craig during his last Bike Week workshop.

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Itinerary

So what will we be doing for three nights? TONS! This will be an action packed photo filled weekend and believe me, by the time it is over you will have some amazing photo memories of your Bike Week workshop! Take a look at what we have planned and yes, this is not for the timid because we will be out in the thick of it until 1AM on the 1st night, just when the action is heating up!

INTRO

Thursday Night, March 14

8-9 pm – Introduction – Intro to workshop, meeting each other

9:30 – Daytona Ale House Restaurant “for Captain Jacks Buried Treasure” (informal group)

11 pm-1 am – Night Shoot 1 “Hit the Mean Streets of Daytona”

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DAY ONE

Friday, March 15

10 am-noon – Group Meeting 1 – Intro to Photo Mechanic, download night shoot

1-5 – Mid Afternoon Shoot – “take advantage of that great mid-day sun”

6–9 – Group Meeting 2 – Street Shooting Techniques, downloading and editing

10-Midnight – Night Shoot 2

 

DAY TWO

Saturday, March 16

9 am-11 – Morning Shoot – “morning light is pure and beautiful”

1-3 – Group Meeting 3 – one-on-one editing help

4-8 – Late Afternoon Shoot – “evening light, you can’t beat it”

8-10 Free (edit or shoot more, your choice)

 

FINAL DAY

Sunday, March 17

9-10:30 am – Peach Valley “Best breakfast in Daytona Beach” (informal group)

11-3 – Group Meeting 4

3 pm – Slideshow of everyone’s work and final thoughts

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This workshop will be pretty amazing. If you want to get in on it the fee is $699 for the entire 4 day, three night workshop. This does NOT include Hotel, Travel or Food. For more details and info please visit the signup page at streetphotograohyworkshops.com . Craig will be taking the deposits and payments and for all of you who want to get in on it, I will see you there! Expect one hell of a time! It will be a time of amazing photography, new friendships and non stop craziness! SIGN UP NOW as spaces are limited.

I will be trying to get some cool gear to bring as well Maybe the new Leica M? New Fuji X100s? No guarantees but I’m on it and will keep everyone updated!

BTW, ONLY 12 spots available for this one, PERIOD.

Steve Huff

Jan 112013
 

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THE SONY RX1 IN INDIA

By Richard Geltman

I ordered the Sony RX1 in September 2012 from Amazon and expected delivery in December. Departure for India was set for the 15th and it seemed likely that the camera would not arrive in time and I would be “forced” to rely upon a NEX-7 and/or the Sigma DP1/2M cameras that I had recently acquired. Happily, the camera came on December 3rd giving me some time to use it before leaving and to become accustomed with its behavior in different situations.

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The camera is weighty-feeling and very solid. It feels like a miniature M9. I was unable to obtain the EVF so used, in addition to the LCD, an optical viewfinder. I found after a few experiments that the Voightlander 28 mm finder gave the best match for the 35 mm lens field of view. I’m sure the Zeiss finder made specifically for the RX1 is nice but I think it somewhat over-priced. I fitted the lens with a 49 mm B+W clear filter and purchased a very inexpensive screw-in vented lens hood on Ebay for around $10. These two served to protect the front surface of the lens throughout 3 weeks of travel. The lens cap (solid metal) was never used at all. While a wrist strap would be quite comfortable with this device I prefer the 60 cm Lance loop-type strap which allows the camera to lie diagonally across my chest and rest on my left hip, making it quickly available yet at the same time unobtrusive and fairly safe from being snatched or damaged.

The ergonomics are pretty good. It never slipped or dropped and was never uncomfortable when shooting in any position. The EV adjustment dial lies at the top right of the body and is fairly firm. I did accidentally dislodge it two times in three weeks. The movie button lies laterally and below the EV dial. While not as bad as the NEX-7 I did inadvertently actuate the video mode once or twice as well. Otherwise, I didn’t use video so have little to say about it. This camera is really small, almost too small for my hands. The shutter is nearly silent but for shooting with an OVF, I used the focus confirmation sound (unavoidably linked to an imitation shutter noise.) This noise was not a problem on the street and generally did not draw any unwanted attention. You quickly start to know where the focus point in the OVF is although I experienced plenty of misses as well. I experienced focus misses with the NEX-7 and the RX1 is faster and more accurate. The lens is large but feels solid and substantial. The markings are engraved rather than painted on. The aperture control ring which encircles the lens is also very solid feeling but lies adjacent to the camera body. For me this makes it somewhat hard to adjust. There is a macro mode ring at the far end of the lens which allows close focus (~22 cm.) I never used this and would rather have the aperture ring in this position as with most Leica lenses, making it more accessible and more usable.

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Battery life is acceptable for my type of shooting and generally I would get more than 250 exposures when fully charged. I always carry a spare but needed to use it only once or twice. The camera will shoot slightly more than two frames per second so one tends not to shoot many frames at a time. Rather one or two and then moving on. As has been mentioned numerous times, Sony requires that the battery be charged in the camera. I find this inconvenient and so purchased some spare generic batteries as well as an external charger. Several types are available and Steve just posted about a particularly nice one. Parenthetically, the non-Sony batteries worked perfectly well.

The only other feature of the camera I would describe is the fact the when using aperture-priority along with auto-iso, which I do much of the time, the camera always tends to a shutter speed of 1/80; rather than lowing the f/stop it will raise the iso and keep the shutter speed at 1/80. Given the pixel density and, perhaps, personal issues such as age, eyesight, balance and steadiness, I would like to be able to set a minimum shutter speed, perhaps 1/125, but the camera doesn’t allow this. Annoying. While you can use shutter priority instead, you get f/4 almost all the time. Again, pretty annoying. The only way around this is to go fully manual but I’m not too adept at it and I generally find it too slow for rapid street use.

All of the above being said, this is a wonderful camera: lovely in feeling, fast in focus (without the accessory lamp,) quiet in operation, smooth and threaded shutter release (as opposed to the halting Leica,) wonderful high iso performance (out to iso 6400 if not beyond,) great malleable files fully supported by Lightroom (unlike the Sigmas,) and ultimately, very small, compact, unobtrusive and with a huge sensor. As has been said elsewhere, you can set the camera to aperture priority, the auto-iso from 100 to 6400 and go out and shoot anything and everything without any problem.

INDIA

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Travel to India was a goal for me for a number of years. I have experienced tourist travel in western Europe, Argentina, Japan, Hong Kong and China and of course the US as I’m a native New Yorker. I assumed the experience would be challenging but rewarding. In this I underestimated India. It was extremely challenging and rewarding but also revelatory, invigorating, infuriating, spiritually awakening, amazing and wonderful. There is a sense of life and vitality in India that I’ve not felt elsewhere. And this in a place with tremendous poverty, social and legal problems (witness the recent rape/murder,) and dramatic disparities in education, economics and social equality. One sees women in saris using primitive hand tools while working on construction projects. One can walk down a street in Udaipur and see a gleaming, black Audi A6 next to a cart carrying the freshest produce pulled by two water buffaloes and guided by a partially toothless old man looking straight out of the 14th century. Driving is a nerve-wracking, chaotic dance of continuous darting in and out, weaving around animal-powered carts, vehicles traveling the wrong direction (even on the few significant highways,) truly horrible roads and passing and endlessly tooting one’s horn. Frequently I was told that driving in India requires a good horn, good brakes and good luck. It also requires nerves of steel, white knuckles and continuous vigilance.

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Mumbai is the city in India that evokes the most usual sense of urban life in me. It has a population of about 21 million and at any given time more than 57% live on the street and are, strictly speaking, homeless. This does not mean that a large percentage of the homeless don’t work and to support them, as well as all the other Mumbai denizens, are vast systems of services such as outdoor laundries, lunch box delivery services and all manner of unbelievably inexpensive goods and services. A vegetarian Indian “burger” sold on the street that costs 5 cents and is wildly popular; shoe shines in the railroad station (that of “Slumdog Millionaire”) for 2.5 cents; street-level haircuts, shaves and dental extractions! India has to be the most entrepreneurial nation on earth. Everybody is selling everything and something. Everything has some value and is recycled and sold by someone who can earn a living from it one rupee at a time. All this, also, from a people who quite generally are curious and friendly with foreign travelers. There is often a sense of over all gentleness that Indians project but, of course, all generalizations such as this are easy to prove false in at least some regard.

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Chaos, dirt, clutter, litter and crowd anxiety can be a deterrent to many contemplating travel to India. Also, fear of contagion, e.g., Delhi-belly, dengue fever, malaria or worse. I experienced no illness or inconvenient health problem while there for three weeks of travel from the north of the country to the southern tip although admittedly I was careful in my habits, never ate street food (as India has the world’s highest rate of toxigenic E. Coli enteritis,) avoided raw vegetables and fruit everywhere but in the best hotels and drank only carbonated water, beer, sodas or wine. If you can overcome some of these common anxieties then India offers an unequaled travel, photographic and personal experience and I would encourage all who are intrigued to take the plunge.

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The photos that accompany this article were all taken with the RX1 rig described above. I hope they convey some of the emotions and raw beauty of the people and the country.

Richard

Dec 172012
 

Street Shooting in Iran

by Nate Robert – See his blog HERE

Hi Steve,

I wanted to make you aware of my journey to photograph the streets of many countries around the world. Very recently, I spent a month in Iran. A country that is very misunderstood, and quite mysterious to most. Of course, what I found is that street shooting in Iran, is just like anywhere else on Earth. Why? Because as the song goes – people are people. It needs to be said that Iranians are the most friendly and welcoming people I have encountered, and I’ve been to 37 countries so far (and counting), all in the name of cultural experience. The people of Iran hold no animosity towards Americans, or Westerners in general – they really do see the issues of governments as totally beyond the control of the citizens – whether that be their own government, or the US government. We’re all human, and we’re all in this together, right?

I’m traveling the world indefinitely, and at this point, I’m only using a single camera, with a single lens. The Fuji X-Pro 1, and the 18mm F2. This combination is in my opinion, the best travel camera set-up available. I’ve gone from a Nikon DSLR, to a Leica M6, to the Fuji. When you’re traveling, you need a light-weight setup – so that rules out DLSR’s. I love film, especially black and white, but it’s a chore to constantly be finding places that will develop my work when I’m in a foreign place. A digital Leica M would be nice, but it’s out of my budget. In my opinion, the IQ of the Fuji, combined with the shutter dial/aperture ring/exposure compensation adjustments and the optical viewfinder, make it the best camera for me. Of course, the X-Pro is not without quirks, and not for everyone.

I found it difficult to shoot street photography at first, not knowing what photographic regulations I needed to adhere to, nor knowing how the people would react to me. However, I slowly got into the groove, and a month later I had a small portfolio of images that I can look back at again and again, to remember such an incredible country.

If any of your readers would like to follow the journey, I think they would find it interesting – one lens, one camera, one world. I’m blogging as I go, and try to do a new set of street photos every few weeks or so.

Keep on doing your thing Steve, we all appreciate it. (Thank’s Nate)!

Nate Robert

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Dec 052012
 

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

By Craig Litten

See his website HERE

 

INTRO

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)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

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.

WHAT IS IT?

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.

 

USING THE 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.

CONCLUSION

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.’

ACCESSORIES

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

Nov 252012
 

A few more Sony RX1 B&W Night Samples…

This is NOT part 2 of the RX1 review but it is just a lazy Sunday post with a few more samples using higher ISO at night along with an on board flash shot as well. I shot it in B&W JPEG mode and what you see is what came out of the camera. Since part 2 of the review will focus on RAW files I decided to throw these up in case anyone happens to be browsing around today :) I’ve been taking a couple of days off for the holiday and will be back full force tomorrow! Until then, enjoy these new RX1 JPED ooc samples!

BTW, these were all using Auto Focus and I had no issues locking focus on any of these shots. The couple of shots with blur is motion blur not mis-focus. Enjoy!

YOU MUST CLICK THE IMAGES FOR LARGER AND BETTER VIEWS

ISO is on the image and EXID is embedded if you want to see it

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Order the Sony RX1 HERE or HERE. Ships in ABOUT 2 WEEKS from what I am seeing/hearing. B&H Says after Dec 5th.

Nov 182012
 

Far Rockaway New York after Hurricane Sandy in Photos by Tom Poole

Hi Steve,

I was recently asked by some friends of mine to document the dire situation in Far Rockaway, NY, post Hurricane Sandy.

These friends of mine have been extremely active in volunteer relief efforts and raising money to help local people with the clean up (Which will take a very long time).

Please feel free to check out their amazing work on their site:

http://www.rockawayrenegades.com

I shot everything with my M9, mostly opting for the 50mm Summilux, but occasionally using the 35mm Summicron.

It’s very easy to forget about the lasting effects that an event like Sandy can have on a community. I only hope that the people of Rockaway (and the other areas affected in NY and NJ), bounce back stronger.

Thanks so much

Tom

Nov 022012
 

The Leica Monochrom – My final words and samples and comparisons…for now.

So here I am, a few weeks in with my Leica Monochrom and still loving the damn thing. I was hoping I would see it as a camera that is a gimmik..a joke..a camera that is no different from any other Leica M digital but that has not been the case. Yea, I love Leica. Always have. I have also criticized them when it was warranted and when they released sub-par products that was beaten by the competition at a much cheaper price.

The Monochrom is a tricky beast. The price leaves it well out of reach for most yet there are so many photographers who lust for one. Others have the opinion that it is crap..an overpriced camera without features or…COLOR! But I see it as a unique one of a kind tool that does indeed beat the Leica M9 for tonality and high ISO capability.

“Little Man” – Leica Monochrom – 50 F/2 Summitar  - cropped  - Click it for larger version. BTW, this has not had any Photoshop work.

In case you missed them, you can see my previous entries in my ongoing Leica Monochrom review below:

Part 1: Understanding the Camera

Part 2: Low light, High ISO and using Filters on and off the camera

Part 2.5: More thoughts on the camera

GALLERY: The Leica Monochrom Gallery – New images added weekly

 “Zombie Jake” – Monochrom with 35 1.4 – ISO 320 – You must click this to see the detail in the larger version! 

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The Monochrom is a real tool..for real photographers..for those who adore B&W photography

I have said this before but not everyone will understand it. Those who refuse to even think about spending this kind of money will instantly bash the Mono on that alone. Others will bash it because they want it but can not afford it and others will bash it because they will say their camera is just as good. Others will say “NOTHING will ever match film”, which is 100% true but why would I pay $8000 to match film? I personally feel what comes out of the Monochrom beats film in many ways. The ones who bash this camera are the photographers who do not get it, and therefore not the target market Leica was aiming at when they released the Monochrom.

The beautiful Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5 on the MM

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and a $250 Canon 50 1.8 LTM

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I have already stated that I feel the camera is overpriced but the reason for this is because it is indeed a “one of a kind” product. No one else makes a camera such as this and yes, there is a difference in the B&W quality between this camera and a Leica M9 converted file. Is it better? Well, not everyone will agree but I think so. In part 2.5 I posted three images. One from the M9 that was a converted B&W and two from the Mono. I saw the difference in tonality and I will show more below. But is it enough to fork over this kind of cash? No, not really.

What makes this camera worth it to many is because of what it is and that is PURITY. How can a digital camera be pure? By being a simple, old school, B&W only camera. That is how. It is just as pure as film and has capabilities that surpass film. Many film die hards will disagree and I am not bashing film because I also love film, I just do not shoot it these days due to cost and time.

 “In Flight” – Monochrom with 50 1.5 Zeiss Sonnar – ISO 320

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As I walk the street with my Monochrom I sit and think… What am I doing owning a $8000 Leica camera body when I am not in that upper income bracket that Leica is so marketing this camera to? Why should I own this beauty when there are other more deserving photographers who can make better use of it?  Why do I NEED this camera? Then I think some more..and the answer is clear. Because you only live once and if I can say anything about life is that we all need to LIVE IT in a way that makes us happy. We do not get a 2nd chance, life is not a dress rehearsal. We are here and then we are gone and if this camera makes me a happy man then I deserve to have it and use it and adore it.

That is basically the attitude I have with all Leica gear. I certainly should not be spending cash on Leica lenses and cameras but at the same time I do not own anything else extravagant. So why not? :)

The fact is that I love the Monochrom. I have shot it all over the place and what I see coming from it are results in B&W that are “different from any other camera I have shot with and converted. It has a look and a feeling. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and truth be told..when you start shooting the camera it takes some getting used to. The 1st few weeks I always saw shots I wanted to shoot in color. Today when I go out with the Monochrom I do not see color. I see only in black and white.

“Fresh Pie” – Monochrom and 35 1.4 – direct from camera on a harsh bright AZ day

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Compared to the Leica M9 – Tones

Many have wondered why on earth they should buy a Monochrom when they may have a Leica M9 already. Let’s forget about other cameras for the moment because if you shoot an M you want to shoot an M. You want that experience of shooting with a rangefinder, a hand-built work of art. If you love Leica then you want a Leica.

So let us say you have an M9 and you have been itching for a Monochrom but you are not sure if there is even a difference between the files when at the end of the day you can convert a color M9 file to B&W.

I have been shooting with both the M9 and Mono for a couple of weeks and comparing results. What I have noticed is that the main things that set the Monochrom apart from the M9 is the fact that you will get MUCH less noise at higher ISO’s and you have the capability to go up to ISO 10,000 with the Mono when the M9 goes up to 2500. The Mono also gives you the Sapphire screen of course but in regards to noise and B&W tonality, IMO the Mono takes the prize when it comes to B&W photography.

It appears that ISO 2500 on the M9 is pretty close to the Leica Monochrom at ISO 6400. Even ISO 10,000 is usable on the Monochrom. 

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and just for fun, and ISO 10,000 crop on the Mono vs the OM-D in Mono mode – NR off.

It has never been a doubt that the Monochrom is good enough in low light to take images in just about any situation. Since there is no ugly color noise we get a nice looking noise pattern, even with a high ISO setting such as 6400. 10,000 is grainy but some may like this look. Sort of like shooting Delta 3200.

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TONES

How about tonality? Can the Mono deliver results that look better than the M9 when an M9 file is converted? Well, maybe not better but the images are certainly different.

1st shot is from the Monochrom – 35 1.4 – ISO 320 and 1/4000s – this is the full size file so you can click it to see it full size.

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When I focused the M9 shot I realized after I was back home that the focus was off a bit so this is not to compare focus but to compare tones after the B&W conversion. I used Alien Skin exposure. Same camera settings. See a difference?

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One more to check for tones – 1st the Monochrom…BOTH converted using the same preset…

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And the M9 converted…

I’ve noticed the whites with the Monochrom are a bit more grey. The grey tones are darker grey than what you will get from the M9 converted color file. So is it better? Possibly, for some yes. For some no. I think what it all boils down to is if you want to get into the “Monochrom Mindset” and only shoot B&W. If so, the Mono will force you to do it. With an M9 you will sometimes keep the color file and therefore you may not start seeing in B&W as much as you would if you were shooting with a Monochrom.

“Kids 1st Zombie”  - Monochrom with 35 1.4 – noise added via filter in Alien Skin

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“Beat the Drum” – 35 1.4 – filter applied in Alien Skin with grain. EXIF is embedded.

So what is my overall bottom line conclusion on the Monochrom? Well, there is nothing like it. Period. To have a Leica M body in all stealth charcoal black without markings that only shoots in B&W is quite the conversation starter. It is a camera that you really can’t get until you use it…hold it..press the shutter. Is it worth $8000? To me, no. To you? Maybe. The files that come out of this camera when a shot is properly focused with a good lens are mind-blowing. Prints..I can only imagine (coming soon..big prints from the Mono).

There is a richness and tonality to the files that come out of the Mono that are very pleasing but do take some getting used to. You can get results that are very grey and flat but you must have that eye in B&W mode to find the right situation for a good B&W photo. Once you get that down as well as the processing and filter use then you can start to feel comfy with the camera.

The Monochrom is not for everyone but for those who dare step into this territory then I feel you will be happy knowing you have one of the most different cameras on the market. A full frame Monochrom only sensor camera with classic beauty, classic handling and even classic usability. Mixed with the ultra simple controls of focus, aperture and shutter speed and you have a winner for those of us who want to shoot in a pure way. The Leica Monochrom gives us that.

Only you can decide if it is for you. B&W only, Superb ISO performance, Gorgeous files in a Leica M body. $8000.

“Hey Brother can you spare some Brains”? – Mono with 50 Summitar

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Where to Buy the Leica Monochrom?

If you want to buy one of these and are prepared to take the heat from your significant other about it then you can buy from one of the following dealers, all of whom I recommend:

Ken Hansonemail at [email protected]

B&H Photo

Dale Photo

Pop Flash

The Pro Shop  - 561-253-2606

The only problem is that this camera is back ordered and usually dealers have wait lists going on. Be sure to check with all dealers to see where they stand on stock and tell them I sent you!

Zeiss 50 Planar at 2.8

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What else can I say?

After 3 previous parts to this review and several other posts prior to these I feel that everything I could say about the Monochrom has been said. It is what it is and you know if it is something for you or if you would benefit by owning one. All I know is I am in love with mine and will continue to use it during those times where I feel B&W would suit. I may even be inspired to go out and start a new series like I used to do when I had more time. Maybe pick up on my Homeless Project where I left off a few years ago. The Mono motivates :)

Zeiss Sonnar 1.5

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Oct 282012
 

Zombie Apocalypse! My weapons of choice? Leica Monochrom, M9 and Olympus OM-D!

Halloween is just about here and what better way to celebrate it than to attend a good old-fashioned Zombie Walk? I went out yesterday in Phoenix AZ strapped with my Leica Monochrom, a borrowed Leica M9 and my Olympus OM-D and a few lenses to see if I could snap any images of the undead without them eating my brains. The images below were all shot with one of those three cameras.  I also had the Panasonic 8mm Fisheye for M4/3 and LOVED using it at this event. I am writing up a review of that lens so will only include a couple of images here from that lens but it is great fun as fisheyes always are, even with their limited use.

This is just a quick Sunday post for fun as well as a quick POLL to see how many of you can spot the Leica M9 image below when mixed with two Monochrom shots. This site is always about the fun and passion in photography over the technical stuff and besides..it’s Sunday so I am not going to get to involved and sit at my desk for 5 hours :)

Zombies in Monochrom 

A few of the images in this post are from the Leica Monochrom which made me think of the original “Night of the Living Dead”, which was shot in B&W. Zombies really pop in color but they can also look pretty cool in B&W.

BTW, One of the three images below was shot with the M9 and converted to B&W. Can you spot which one? HINT: The M9 converted to B&W will give off a different look to the Greys/whites than the Monochrom.

#1

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#2

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#3

Can you spot the M9 image? Vote in the poll below and cast your vote: WHICH IMAGE IS FROM THE M9? 1, 2, or 3?

10/29 – ANSWER: The M9 shot is #3!

Be sure to click the images for larger versions! In my upcoming part 3 review on the Mono I will have some full size 100% files for you to check out from the Zombie walk. It was loads of fun shooting with the Mono though I have to say..these walking undead zombies POPPED in color!

Zombies in COLOR

While at the walk I was blown away with some of the make up and effects some of the “walkers” did on themselves. There were zombies everywhere! Teenage zombies, old zombies and even kid zombies :) It is amazing how popular the whole Zombie genre is these days. There were entire families showing up as zombies and it was super cool to see and interact with everyone. The cool thing is that everyone there LOVED getting their photos taken. Take a look at just a few of the shots I snapped below using the various cameras and lenses.

The M9 and 35 1.4

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The OM-D and the Panasonic 8mm Fisheye

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OM-D and 12mm f/2

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Leica M9…this guy wanted to eat the camera and then feast on my brains!

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OM-D and Fisheye

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The OM-D and 75 1.8..this lady had the hair but no makeup so she resembled a troll doll :)

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Leica M9 and 50 Summitar 

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The OM-D and 75 1.8

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M9 and 50 Summitar

I have to say that if there is a Zombie Walk in your neighborhood  next Halloween then GO! It is loads of fun, there are a gazillion photo opps and everyone is friendly and having a great time, which makes for some great image making possibilities. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

Steve  

Oct 242012
 

Leica Monochrom Ongoing Review part 2.5. More thoughts on the camera, on Leica in general and many more sample shots from this unique camera. 

Part 3 is now up HERE!

It has been about a week since I have last written anything about the Monochrom. In part 2 of this ongoing review I wrote about the low light performance of the Monochrom as well as touched on the use of filters on the lens and in software while processing. In part 1 of the review I spoke about understanding the camera. Since then I have been shooting with the camera more and more and finding out that even after a few weeks of almost daily use I am not tired of seeing the gorgeous “Mono” files that come from this already “classic” tool.

I say already classic because as you all know, this is a black and white only camera body. Even if you come across a super cool scene in color, you can not shoot it in color. With the Monochrom it is all about “seeing” in Mono, something that I admit I am not 100% trained on just yet. Even so, I am having a wonderful change of pace shooting with it. It is like I have been transported back to a time without color film, color TV or color anything. Shooting this camera just feels nostalgic.

I have also been having some fun shooting with a Hoya R72 IR filter, and yes, it works giving beautiful results. Finally, I have been really enjoying seeing what Kristian Dowling has been getting with his Monochrom so read on to see a couple of IR samples as well as Kristian’s breathtaking and amazing images with this camera.

Let me get one thing stated up front..this camera is indeed overpriced. There is just no way on earth it is actually worth $8,000 US dollars to me (to you maybe). Yes, it has the gorgeous and classic Leica build and styling and the solid feel as well as the feeling you get when shooting with a classic rangefinder but it is $8000 for a body only and at this price it is in reality reserved for those with an upper end income, and I get the feeling Leica wants to keep it like this. Kind of sad that there are so many who are lusting after this but know deep in their heart they could never afford it. When you add in the cost of a lens it gets really outrageous and beyond the scope of 90% of shooters.

But this is Leica my friends and it is who they have been for many years and they show no sign of changing their ways though the new M is actually reasonably priced IMO for a full featured Leica M, and that is one camera that I am very excited about because if Leica nailed the IQ and usability then for some it will be the last M they may ever buy. For others that camera was the M9 and for some it was the M3, M6, M7 or MP. I am not sure that the Monochrom is the last M anyone would buy just due to the limitations of shooting only in Monochrom. Then again a Monochrom and something like a NEX-6, OM-D or Fuji X-E1 would be a good combo as well if you do not want to break the bank.

Back to Leica. Over the past few years Leica has changed a bit. I have seen them go from a small struggling company who were making many bad choices in the digital age, even bordering in bankruptcy at one point, to a company enjoying huge success and growth. They went through many digital growing pains and if it were not for the M9, Leica would not be where they are today. The M9 was THE camera..it was their golden ticket. This camera, the “golden child” M9, changed the whole world of photography because it attracted so many new Rangefinder users, and this was good. The M9P that was released as a “new” old camera did not even come close to selling in the numbers that the M9 did, and this could be an issue for Leica. With so many happy M9 users how many will jump to this Monochrom or the new M? The new M could sell less than the M9 or blow it out of the water sales wise depending on user reports and experiences.

With the M9, It did not matter if you were a pro or hobbyist, the reason for shooting these cameras was clearly for the passion, the fun, the excitement and the pride you got from using such a precision and well made tool. It also happened to deliver the most gorgeous and unique image quality of any camera at the time  when you used  the right Leica lens. Lenses like the 50 Summilux ASPH, 35 Summilux and 90 Summicron. The Noctilux and even the classic 50 Summitar. Yes, it was expensive but it was more versatile than the Monochrom because it shot color or B&W. So many stretched their budgets to buy one, and many fell in love with the camera just as I did.

Leica came back in a big way in 2009 and I am a VERY humble guy but this time have to admit that my blog..THIS blog.. was at the forefront of the M9 rush. It was my favorite camera ever and it stayed by my side day after day. My M9 review has had over 3 million views and I have had THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of e-mails over the past three years from those who have bought M9′s just due to my review and were sharing their story with me. I have heard heart warming stories as well as horror stories. Many Leica users flock here due to the my love of Leica and the images and stories shared by the many who submit their images. But I am the first to admit there are many cameras that can shoot beautiful photos and no one “needs” a Leica to do so. No..we do not need a Leica M, but many of use get so much pleasure from using one that in many ways, for some of us, it enriches our lives.

A bold statement for sure but it is true. I have met so many of you at workshops, events and all over the world and the one thing I see is consistent. There is a passion in those who shoot Leica that I just have not seen as much with other brands. Even though we can make gorgeous images with ANY camera, there is just something about a Leica that gets our hearts beating. A Leica may not be any better at preserving those precious memories than other cameras but to those who own one, it gives us something..something we may not be able to put our finger on exactly but it has some MOJO that other cameras can not match.

I admit to being in this group which is probably why I also am in love with the Monochrom even though I can get great results with any camera shooting B&W. So, is there a real difference between cameras when shooting in Monochom or converting color to B&W? That is what everyone wants to know, including me. Shooting a NEX-7 or OM-D can give you fantastic results but for those who have that love and passion and desire to shoot Leica it does not matter as shooting other cameras is nothing like shooting an M. So what is the point of  doing such comparisons? Well, there will always be those who hate on Leica and those who hate on cameras that are NOT Leica. There is always a debate in life no matter what the topic of discussion which is always good to have. After shooting other cameras with the Mono I have no doubt that anyone could get an award winning B&W shot with just about any camera out today, but I will compare them so you can see what the Monochrom offers over the others as everything is not as black and white as it seems. But this will be in PART 3 next week :)

If you have not yet read part one and part two of this ongoing Monochrom review then you should :) This is officially “part 2.5″ because part three was supposed to be the comparisons. I am not finished with those just yet so I added this in as an in between review post. After a while with this camera I am seriously enjoying it because it does have some serious charm. In past installments I spoke about how you can get any look you desire from this camera. Contrasty, flat, or however you like it. I also went around the internet and looked up over a thousand film images and after seeing some of the work from Kristian Dowling and his Monochrom I concluded that yes indeed, for me, this camera can easily and does easily take the place of any 35mm film. I will have those yelling at me over that statement but look at the key words..”for me”..it is what it is and nothing will change my mind. 

Would I rather save $6500 and buy an M6 and hundreds of rolls of film? Me? No because that would limit me to whatever ASA is in my camera. It would limit me to 36 images per roll. It would cost me quite a bit of cash to have all of those processed and scanned. If I scanned myself I would have to spend money on a very good scanner and spend hours per roll scanning. Then they would need to be tweaked anyway. For what I shoot and my style I just do not have  the desire to go through all of that again. Film has a special place, and I enjoy it every now and then but with this Monochrom available and in my hands I just would not go back to film except to shoot the occasional roll here and there.

A Quick Sneak Peek – Leica Monochrom vs Leica M9 at ISO 320 – Click for full 100% crop. OOC results are scary similar but noise is where it is at. THIS IS NOT FOR SHARPNESS! This was hand held, indoor low light. This is to show tonality and ISO at 320. ISO at 320 on the M9 = ISO 2000 on the MM. 

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Infrared with the Hoya R72 FIlter

Infrared photography is something I have always been interested in but never really tried it when shooting film. I experimented with it years ago with a Sony F707 digital camera and again with a Minolta Dimage 7 but was never happy with my results. So why not try it again? Not all cameras can shoot IR and many photographers end up converting their digital cameras so that can shoot like this.

Many have told me that you can not shoot IR with the Monochrom but I had to try. I bought a couple of IR filters and the one that gets me the results is the Hoya R72. I bought one to fit my 35 Lux FLE and gave it a shot. One thing to remember when shooting with these filters is that if you focus normally with your Monochrom your image will be severely back focused. It is a hit or miss and you will also need a tripod. The key is to focus a few feet in front of your subject. I have not shot too much with this filter yet but hope to do more soon.

Greens to white :)

So the Monochrom is basically a camera that will appeal to a select few. A few who have the funds to sink into it as well as the hardcore dedicated B&W shooters who salivate at the thought of a B&W only camera that allows them to concentrate on their vision more than anything else.

Part 3 will be up really soon with comparisons between the M9, OM-D, NEX, etc. The Mono with straight RAW files and the others with converted color files. The M9 is easily capable to shoot B&W but the main #1 difference between the M9 and Mono is the noise levels. ISO 320 on the M9 looks like ISO 2000 on the Mono. This opens up possibilities for night shooting but how will the new M be with noise? With ISO 6400 capability the new M may be really good at 3200 but the Mono goes up to 10,000 and is usable at that speed.

Those who are interested in the Mono just need to know it is a back to basics as  you can get.

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Some amazing Monochrom imagery by Kristian Dowling

Kristian and I have been chatting through e-mail for quite a while now and after he wrote the article about the Noctilux I was blown away with what he could do with an M. Just so happens he was out shooting the Monochrom as well and he has allowed me to share some of his images here. I am so itching to go take a trip with my Mono soon but Kristian is one of those photographers I respect, admire and hope to be as good as someday. You can check out his website HERE. These shots below are all MASTERFUL photographs.

Oct 132012
 

The Leica Monochrom Review Part 2: Low Light, High ISO and Filters

This part of my ongoing Leica Monochrom review will go over Low Light and High ISO shooting as well as using filters on the lens and off the lens. The images here were all shot by me at high ISO or in low light. I will have many more great samples in parts 3 & 4. For now, Enjoy part 2 and feel free to leave your comments about the Leica Monochrom!

Read Part 1 Here which goes over what the camera is all about as well as a quick comparison with 35mm film. I also added some supplemental photos HERE. Part 2.5 is now up as well! Thank you!

katiebabycrop

My Monochrom Journey Continues…

After reading part one of my continuing Leica Monochrom Review (you can read it here) you now realize what the Leica Monochrom is all about as well as who it is for and NOT for. You also know it is an $8,000 B&W only camera that does not shoot color. I have been shooting continuously every day with this camera and I have to say that after two weeks I am really connecting with the Monochrom on a level even more so than I did with the M9, which was my camera “soulmate”..or at least I thought. The more I shoot the Mono, the more I think that this one may be “the one” that sticks by my side for as long as it can. I shot the M9 for 3 years and only gave it up to get the Monochrom and I am not in any way disappointed with this decision. In fact, I feel 100% happy with this choice that I made and after daily shooting with this I can say it is a camera that is VERY capable of creating some fine photographs and in the right hands, works of art. Low light, high ISO..yep, the Monochrom is the real deal my friends.

The Leica Monochrom is a serious tool even at night on the street at ISO 2000. I shot this in San Francisco while taking a street walk and was very happy with the results. Please click the image for a larger 1800 pixel wide version.

BTW, I edited this to have the darker gritty feel. I like this high contrast deep black look when shooting late night street and the Mono gave it to me. I could have easily taken the flat grey low contrast look as well. Many Monochrom haters initially said the camera was incapable of producing blacks yet when I compare this to my high contrast film shots on my HD this looks much better to my eyes. 

and one more with a less harsh look

musicman

Vision

With the Leica M9 we all had (or still have) a tool that can deliver mind-blowing results with the right lens and of course the right vision of the person behind the camera. There  are indeed limitations though because the M9 is limited with high ISO. Even shooting the street at night with an M9 and 35 1.4 was a little tough at times because the max ISO is 2500 and at that level it is pretty damn noisy. I have used ISO 2500 on the M9 in B&W to great effect but it was still grainy and noisy and that was it… The ceiling was hit with nowhere else to go in regards to low light. Well, that is not true actually. You could always grab a Noctilux f/0.95 for a cool $11k. :)

When Leica announced the Monochrom they touted it as a camera that will put an end to B&W film. After using it for a while and getting the hang of the processing I almost believe that statement. I still feel B&W film like Tri-X will never fully die due to the film die hards who will refuse to ever give it up and admit that anything digital can beat it but here we are in 2012 and more and more B&W films are fading away and being discontinued. Neopan 1600, T-Max…it’s a sad time for those who love shooting silver B&W. Many faves are dying away and there is nothing to replace them with. They each had their own look and feel and even smell. Can the Leica Monochrom deliver the goods for those who love those films that are now gone?

I think so..if you have the vision to create what your mind sees and wants.

ISO 1600 – I slightly back focused my 35 1.4 but the result is still gorgeous. While other guys were using strobes and flash I went “au natural” with whatever light was in the room and I like the result much better than the deer in the headlights look. Again, I processed this to have more contrast and deeper blacks. I could have went with a lower contrast look. Remember no lighting was used here so the shadow on her face is due to this. 

It Delivers the Goods

The really nice thing about the Monochrom is that it delivers the goods *if you know how to use it and process the files from it*. Many shots from the Monochrom, even from a couple of well-respected shooters and reviewers look a but flat because the files need a little bit of work to make them go from great to WOW. I am not saying that my shots are “WOW” but I have come a long way from my 1st samples in Berlin which showed the flat grey look that many are getting with this camera. I am speaking of the look of the files, the tones..the pop..the beauty. In my opinion, the Leica Monochrom is a box full of hidden potential and it may take me a year to really get the most from it. The one thing I know is that it certainly CAN deliver, and it is the real deal if you take the time to get to learn it and become one with it.

Here is an example I shot on the streets at night at ISO 8000. Yes, 8000. I processed it to give it a high contrast pop and as you can see, it has it. Gone are the dull greys you saw in earlier samples. LIke I said, this camera is VERY versatile and can get any look you desire once you learn how to work with the files. 

When I say it “delivers the goods” what I mean is that it can do just about anything you need it to do in the B&W world. Do you like flat grey shots? No problem. Do you like gritty high contrast? No problem! Do you like a Tri-X look? The Mono can do it all but to help it along it is quite simple. I always shoot RAW for the best quality file and then during RAW processing I tweak the exposure, black level and contrast to where I want it. I then process the RAW and use either an Alien Skin Exposure filter or bring it in to Silver Efex Pro (which comes with the Monochrom) to finish it up.

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Using Software Filters with the Monochrom

You do not have to use any kind of filters with the Monochrom but they can add the look of your old fave film and get pretty damn close to it. You can go for rich blacks, high contrast, low contrast, grit and noise, or anything you desire just by running an image through Silver Efex Pro or Alien Skin Exposure. I love Alien Skin Exposure 4 and have put a sample below as to what it can do for a photo from the Monochrom.

This 1st image is direct from the camera with no adjustments at all. As you can see it is a bit flat and dark…

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I took that image and ran it through Alien Skin Exposure using a simple preset (but I did it without adding grain). This example now pops more and has more contrast. This is just a generic example of a 3 second filter added. You can get as complex as you wish and you can also choose different looks for your photos. The arsenal of film stock filters and customization of these software packages are a must for any Monochrom owner. 

So if you are buying a Monochrom or already own one I highly recommend at least playing with some of these software filters. The camera actually comes with Silver Efex Pro which is the standard by which all others are measured. Alien Skin Exposure 4 can be downloaded here with a 30 day trial.  I highly recommend it not only for the Monochrom files but also for any digital files. Mess with it and get creative..step outside of  the box and see what you like. You may be surprised. I am happy that the Monochrom puts out flat files. Remember, this is a GOOD thing! This gives us the room to process the files to our liking. If the files came out all contrasty and slick then we would have less freedom to create our vision.

The Monochrom is just right and does what it does for a reason. It is not a camera for beginners.

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The software filters also allow you to get as creative as you want by adding frames and more noise..ISO 2500 – I cropped this one and it shows the effects of the filter I applied. 

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Using Actual Filters on your Lenses. Red, Yellow, IR and ND. Old School B&W.

With the Monochrom you are shooting just like your Father or Grandfather (or even you do today) did back in the day. Many B&W film shooters use filters on their lenses to enhance their skies or skin tones and you can also do this with the Monochrom. When shooting just imagine that you are shooting film because what worked when shooting with B&W film will work with the Monochrom. I feel Leica should have included a set of nice filters with the camera for those who want to take it all the way old school and get back to the ultimate B&W frame of mind.

They didn’t include any so I went out and bought a few. I picked up a B+W Red, Yellow and IR filter as well as an ND filter for those bright sunny days when I want to shoot with a wide aperture. With the minimum ISO of the Monochrom being 320 it is impossible to shoot at f/1.4 in full sun or mild sun. Adding an ND filter solves the problem. I bought this one for my 35 Lux FLE.

IR filters

I bought one of these out of curiosity. Here is the description of what it should do:

The B+W 46mm IR Dark Red (092) Filter is used for infrared photography with digital cameras and specialized infrared films. This nearly opaque filter blocks all visible light up to 650nm, lets 50% of radiation pass between 650 and 700nm, and more than 90% of radiation pass between 730 and 2000nm. Infrared film sensitivity is rarely greater than 1000nm, so this filter essentially allows most perceivable infrared radiation to be transmitted. Due to the nature of infrared photography, the filter factor for this filter is highly variable and depends largely on your film sensitivity and lighting conditions.

This was shot with a B+W IR-695 filter. I wanted to expiriment a bit with one. This one was at f/1.4 with the 35 Summilux FLE. 

Red Filter Usage and Example

The Red Filter when used on the Monochrom or with B&W film will add massive contrast. If you use this to shoot clouds in the sky you will get very dramatic results with borderline “Thunderstorm” effects. Unfortunately I live in Phoenix where there is rarely a cloud in the sun filled sky so all I have for this section is a shot that shows an OOC JPEG from the Mono with a red 25A Red filter. In most cases you would not want to use this filter – only for dramatic effects in skies IMO. When I get a nice sky shot using this filter I will post it here. I bought a cheaper red filter as I will rarely use it. 

Yellow Filter Usage and Example

Using a yellow filter will help bring out some contrast and can help skin tones a little as well. It’s a mild filter that can help bring more pop out of the camera to your files from the Monochrom. Using a yellow filter for B&W is pretty standard and is usually the goto filter as it will help your skies from being too bright as well. If you get one filter for your Monochrom, get a yellow. I use a B&W  Medium yellow which is a very high quality filter. The image below was shot with the yellow filter on the camera. Click it for a larger view.

Using filters can be part of the fun and creativity with the Leica Monochrom and will bring you back a bit. Pick a filter for your specific use and go with it. You can also buy other filters but these were the ones I bought for my Mono as they are the most used in B&W film.

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Really High ISO & the Monochrom

With the Leica Monochrom you no longer have to be limited to ISO 2500 because you can shoot up to 10,000 ISO with this camera and get usable results. I have already shown an ISO 8000 shot earlier in this review but below you can see more from ISO 3200 and up. What amazes me about the Monochrom is the detail that is kept even when there is noise and grain. Even when shooting at night which is a torture test for ANY digital camera and high ISO the Monochrom keeps its cool and delivers stunning results in detail, tonality and overall wow factor.

Click the image below to see a larger version. BTW, this was ISO 8000 on a DARK street. The detail that is here is quite amazing. The tones are rich. IMO, this beats film because I was not stuck with one film in my camera. With the Monochrom I have ALL B&W films available at all times. 

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Another ISO 8000 with crop – click it to see full crop embedded

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ISO 6400 with a little more light shining in…and none of these shots have had ANY Noise Reduction of any kind. What you see is what you get.

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Real world ISO 6400 on the street at night…not the best shot but you can get a feel for the noise level when there is no light around..This is direct from camera with no filter applied at all..

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ISO 2500

The bottom line on the high ISO and low light is that this camera is SUPER FANTASTIC! This camera is really  a treat and so nice to shoot at night and in low light because it just does what it should and that is to have every kind of B&W film loaded up and ready at your command. Dial in ISO 320 to 10,000 at any given moment and be surprised by the results you will get. The Mono keeps the detail and sharpness and the noise is like a nice grained film. I was very happy with the results and when combined with a fast Leica lens like a Summilux or even Noctilux you can be king of the nightime B&W world. There is no color camera that can do what this one does with the tones nor the experience. The Monochrom is a different camera than anything on the market right now and many scoff at the idea of a B&W only camera but at the same time many are drooling over the thought of owning one.

Shooting in B&W requires passion and a love of the art of photography. You will get out what you put in and the camera can either reward you with beautiful files or disappoint you with flatness. For all of you getting this camera be sure to work with the files using lightroom or Photoshop as well as filter plug-ins and physical filters. This is when you will start to really appreciate what the Monochrom can do for you. I feel that this camera also inspires and when you tale it out to shoot you know you have something special in your hands. I may not agree with Leica’s pricing on this camera but I have to tell it like it is and the fact is that I adore this camera. End of story.

BTW, I am loving the combo of the 35 Summilux FLE with the camera and is my favorite Leica lens ever. My perfect kit would be a 28 Elmarit, 35 Summilux, 50 cron APO and a 75 of some kind. No way I can ever afford the 50 APO but it is a killer lens on the Monochrom.

For those that want to replace B&W film with a camera that can do it all in the B&W world but were worried about high ISO..well, don’t be. The Monochrom delivers :)

Part 2.5 is up HERE.

To buy the Monochrom you need to get on a list or pre-order. Mine came from Ken Hansen ([email protected]) but you can also buy from Dale Photo, PopFlash, B&H Photo or Amazon!

Look for part three of this ongoing review  in 7-12 days where I will have side by side comparisons (full size samples) with cameras like the M9, Fuji X, OM-D and others :) I also plan to do prints with the files as well so bookmark and check back often!

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Oct 122012
 

Sony week Wrap Up and more thoughts on the Sony RX1

So here I am in my hotel room at the Carmel Valley Ranch on my last day with the Sony team and I have to say that this week has been incredible. When Matt from Sony told me it would be “EPIC” he was not kidding. Sony knows how to launch new cameras and they do it with style and substance like no other but how others should.

This was considered a “press event” so there were about 15 or so of the top Journalists in America here for this week where we all raced cars, flew in helicopters, at lunch at vineyards, photographed kite surfers at Waddell Beach, and hiked around Big Sur. Some of us also put on bee suits and worked with bees. We also drove down the coast to see some amazing sights as well as made many new friends and had some great times. Sony even had a contest at the end of the week and I won the “best photo” category with the following RX1 JPEG shot which was shot a f/2:

The whole purpose of this trip of course was so that Sony could “officially” launch their new cameras and letting all of us try them out all week shooting what we wanted and when we wanted. We chose what we wanted to shoot with and we did not have any restrictions or instructions. All Sony asked was for us to share our honest opinions, good and bad. This was very refreshing because some companies do NOT want you to share the bad, and when you do they start to snub you. I could name names but won’t. :)

I had a great time with some of the guys here including Chris Gampat from The Phoblographer, Photo John from Photography Review and Amadou Diallo from DPreview.

Chris Gampant from The Phoblographer as we were testing the Sony 500mm on the NEX-6 – shot with the 10-16 on the NEX-6

So let me say it was great to meet ALL of the guys who attended this event and if I head to Photo Plus in a couple of weeks I look forward to chatting more.

The RX1 – Final Thoughts on my 1st Look 

As for me, I am happy I came as I had quality time with the hot camera of the week, the Sony RX1. In fact, it was extra special because there are only 11 RX1′s in the world and only 4 of them were here. I want to thank Sony for letting me use one for a few days to put it through it’s paces. I made a video with it in my room even though I had bad lighting and I added some video samples in the video as well (taken with the RX1).

I found that during my time with the RX1 I really liked the size, the build, the lens spec, the QUALITY of the lens which is sharp corner to corner and the ISO performance in low light, which is the true test of ISO performance. Sony is climbing a little but of an uphill battle with the RX1 due to the cost of the camera because the “masses” are not into a fixed focal length lens. Many enthusiasts are, and these are the ones Sony made this camera for.

I know many who shoot with a Leica M9 and 35 Summicron. Just from the little I have seen I have no doubt that this RX1 can exceed the Leica M9 and 35 cron in quality, low light and even detail once I can process RAW files. The quality is there and it even hadles B&W conversions amazingly well. Below you can see a 100% UN scientific comparisons of simple JPEGS between the two, same focal length and same aperture.

The Sony RX1 at 2.8 – converted to B&W

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Below, the Leica Monochrom with 35 1.4 at 2.8

Sony puled out the stops on the RX1 with superb quality video as well. When shooting video it has rich color and a 3D pop if you shoot wide open. I am hoping  to explore the video side more when I get a review unit with final firmware. I am also excited to process the RAW files as all I have seen are JPEGS. The RX1 is an exciting camera and in regards to quality of build and files it is top notch. $2799 is pricey sure but so is a full frame Canon 5DIII (which I would take an RX1 anyday over a 5DII or Nikon D800..more on this below) or Nikon D800 or Sony A99!

The RX1 can not be compared to a DSLR in any other way except amazing full frame image quality and in fact the results I was getting from the RX1 beat the A99 in overall IQ because you do not have  to depend on the lenses and hope they are sharp. The 35mm f/2 built into the RX1 is perfectly mated with the sensor and it shows. I am not writing hype, I am writing fact as I always do. When a $2799 coat pocket full frame camera can match any of the big guns, for me, that is pretty special.

If someone offered me a FREE 5DII, Nikon D800E or RX1 and said I had to pick one..for me it would be the RX1 simply due  to the fact that I personally can not stand huge heavy cameras and lenses! The fact that the RX1 is up there in quality of these two with their best 35mm lenses means no contest for me. Those who say “you can get a 5DII for that money” really has no clue what they are saying as this camera is not for someone who wants a DSLR. It is for those who DO NOT want a DSLR but want kick ass DSLR full frame quality that is small and light.

Remember that to see the images the way they should be seen you have to click on the image below. It will open up a larger version. The shot below is just a snap of all of us hanging out while waiting for the rain to pass.

The RX1 is not an action camera though. If you shoot action or wildlife then go to the DSLR. The RX1 is for those who want high quality anywhere they go. Portraits, street shooting, candids, landscape, etc. This camera excels in any of  those situations much like a Leica does. In fact it even has some soul much like Leica and makes many other cameras (including the NEX series) seem flat and lifeless when looking side by side.

The RX1 is a serious tool and it does have a shutter speed dial on the back (seems to have been some confusion with this) by your thumb next to the playback button at the top. It has a dedicated EV dial, aperture dial on the lens, can focus as close as .2 meters and the detail, color and DR of the sensor is at the top of the heap.

Manual Focus and shooting in 50mm with the Sony RX1

BTW, Manual focus also works GREAT with this camera. Was a joy to MF using focus peaking and never had an OOF shot using it . The RX1 also has more tricks up its sleeve with its focal length multiplier. With the press of a button you can shoot in a 50mm focal length (cropped) and the samples look good and sharp in my quick JPEG tests. This is not just a simple “digital zoom” but instead the camera actually crops the photo and re processed the file to make sure it is nice and detailed.

A quick JPEG at f/2 in standard mode using the 35mm lens as it should be..in 35mm – ISO 800 as it was actually dark out though it appears to be light in the image. I am ONLY demonstrating the crop feature here, not IQ.

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and with a press of a button I turn on a 1.4 multiplier and get a 50mm equivilant

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and if you want to go to around 75mm press it again and get it

So while you have a native 35mm lens on board you can shoot in 50 or 75 equivalent modes without losing much of anything.  I will test this with portraits when I get the camera again (which I hope is soon)!

Bokeh

With a fast f/2 Zeiss lens there will be Bokeh to be found but remember this is a 35mm lens, not a 50 or 90 so the out of focus backgrounds will not be extreme like you get with a 50 Summilux Leica. You will get full frame depth of field with the RX1 though and the Zeiss Sonnar f/2 does a great job IMO.

35mm, f/2 ISO 2500 – taken to show Bokeh and DOF of the 35mm lens on the full frame sensor

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ISO 800 to show DOF and Bokeh – YOU MUST click the image to see the image how it is meant to be seen

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ISO 1000 at f/2

What I do NOT like about the RX1

Well, Sony asked me to be honest and of course the RX1 is NOT perfect. I wish they would have included a built in EVF and even added a tilt LCD.  I also wish it had a built in ND filter like the Sony X100 did as the max shutter speed at f/2 is 1/2000s. It is not a real issue as you can get an ND filter for $50-$70 and be done with it but would have been nice to have one built in. The price is a bit high but Sony has spent an incredible sum to develop this camera and it shows. If you want the quality of a full frame DSLR with an amazing fast lens and incredible quality sensor that will fit in your coat pocket and go with you anywhere then this is the ONLY game in town

I am sad to leave the RX1 but hope to see one soon for full review. When I do get one expect some crazy comparisons and full testing of the camera. I have a feeling the one I pre ordered will remain pre-ordered because once I test the RAW performance  this could very well be my one color camera while I hang on to my Leica monochrom for my serious B&W work. (though the RX1 is pretty damn good at this as well).

You can Pre-Order the RX1 at B&H Photo HERE

You can Pre-Order the Sony RX1 at Amazon HERE

BTW, I was told the RX1 will start to ship 1st week of December but they are making sure to get them out BEFORE Christmas :)

PS: I will be heading home this weekend so the site schedule will go back to normal with guest posts, daily inspirations, and the next installment in my Leica Monochrom review as well as an Olympus 75 1.8 review. STAY TUNED and as always thank you for reading my site. I appreciate each and every one of you who do.

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