Mar 182014
 

Quick updates on the Fuji X-T1

by Brad Husick

(see Brad’s initial thoughts at the bottom of my X-T1 review HERE)

I am still loving my new X-T1 and the results I am getting with Leica glass are fantastic. Here are three quick updates:

1) The new Fuji MHG-XT handgrip (the one without the battery) has arrived and I can say that although it’s fairly expensive for a non-electronic item, it is very well built and well thought-out. The mount screw is a hex and is fully recessed into the bottom to allow easy mounting to Arca-Swiss style heads. The left side (as viewed from the back of the camera) is nicely tapered and smoothed for a good feel in the hand. The front of the grip comes up just high enough to wrap your middle finger over the top. The box even comes with the proper hex key for mounting. I’d say this grip is a fantastic addition to the handling of the camera without making the overall package too large. I was worried about this when considering the battery grip.

handgrip

2) The light leak issue from inside the left door (as viewed from the back) is real. You can test this by turning on the camera and leaving the lens cap or body cap in place, then opening the door and shining a flashlight into the top portion of the ports. I have attached a photo to show this. The good news is that Fuji is fixing all the cameras with this issue and when I spoke with them yesterday they said they are taking names and addresses to send out mailing labels when the replacement parts get to New Jersey from Japan. It shouldn’t be long now before that happens. In the mean time, just leave the cap closed when shooting and you shouldn’t have any troubles.

lightleak

3) I re-ran my indoor sports shooting test (see Steve’s review article near the bottom for my section) this time shooting at f/4 and ISO 6400 with the camera set to “high performance” mode and JPEG only capture. The results were better but still not up to the level of full size Nikon or Canon DSLR sports performance. Frame rates were high (but not 8 fps) and the buffer allowed for 10 to 15 shots. I suspect that with one of the new Sandisk UHS-2 SDXC cards (280MB/sec) we would see that number skyrocket, but these cards aren’t shipping just yet. My conclusion on indoor sports shooting with the X-T1 remains – we need faster zooms (f/2.8) and I am not selling my D4 any time soon.

Brad

 

03/20: UPDATE:

The lacrosse photos were taken with the kit zoom, as was the restaurant photo. The photo of me was taken with the Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH lens at f/1.4. The full frames are that – full frame. The “zoomed” images are screen captures at 100% in Lightroom. Minimal processing was done.

Thanks,

Brad

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Jan 082014
 

Precious Memories from Two Generations of Rolleiflex Shooters

By Brad Husick

My mother and father met when she was 13 years old. Using his Rolleiflex twin-reflex camera, my grandfather took lots of photos of her as she grew and eventually married my dad, whereupon my dad kept photographing her with his Rollei.

My father passed away three years ago. I inherited his collection of eleven-thousand 2.25×2.25 negatives, along with his father’s negatives. My mom is now almost 79 and I just selected the 100 best photos of her and created a book of them for her. Many of them she had never seen.

She says she looks at it three times a day and shows it to everyone who visits her.

Here is the entire book to browse:

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/invited/3603396/f2ab6a3cf43107fc3349c64513eeb14e583c9551

The negatives were expertly scanned at 4000dpi by GoPhoto.com in California.

-Brad Husick

Screenshot 2014-01-04 09.16

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Screenshot 2014-01-04 09.18.40

 

Nov 072013
 

Ten reasons to like the Nikon Df

by Steve Huff

Wowzers..it’s just after mid-week and I feel like I have worked 70 hours this week (and probably have) already due to the buzz, excitement and amazing camera announcements. From the Sony A7 and A7r to the Sony RX10 to the Nikon Df, it has been a wild past two weeks. When the Nikon Df rumors surfaced I knew it would not be for me because I just do not use DSLR’s long-term because I get tired of the size, weight and large lenses.

Ever since moving to small high quality cameras, I have never once looked back to DSLR’s except the week I reviewed the excellent Canon 6D. I really liked the 6D as the quality was outstanding but after a few days in NYC with it, I knew I could/would never buy it due to the weight of the body and lenses combined, let alone the size. My bag had to be bigger and my back hurt more than ever at the end of the day. That experience made me really appreciate my small cameras such as the Leica M and Olympus E-M1 :)

IMG_348161

So when the Nikon Df was official, and the images popped up and we saw what it really was, A DSLR in disguise, I was let down even though I KNEW it would be large and bulky and yes, a DSLR.

Many originally thought it would be mirrorless and be a competing camera to the Sony A7 and A7r or Leica M. Many thought it would be slim and trim and house an EVF. But nope..just a reshaped DSLR with great external dials and controls and a retro design. So upon official announcement 75% of comments were people who were bashing the camera and complaining about the cost, price, size, buttons, cramped controls, etc.

I predicted a week ago that the cost would be $2800 for the Nikon Df body so I expected the cost. I expected it to be DSLR sized and it almost is. I expected it to accept new and old Nikon lenses, and it does. Because of the size and cost, and the fact that I pre-ordered the Sony A7r I decided I would pre-order the Nikon Df so I could review it immediately (I do not have a Nikon contact) and then sell it afterwards. I felt that this camera was something I really needed to review.

But over the past day or two I have been reading and watching more on the Nikon and realized that this camera body makes sense for many shooters and since all of my pre release predictions were 100% spot on, I will stick by my 4th prediction and say that this will be a very popular model for Nikon (pre-orders have been strong for the Df). Many are bickering over the cost…but why? Let me point out a few key points;

  1. The $2800 Nikon Df houses the amazing D4 sensor. The D4 is $6000 and HUGE, HEAVY and BEASTLY.
  2. The Nikon Df is weather sealed in a solid magnesium body.
  3. The Nikon Df has a cool retro look and manual controls that MANY have been asking for.
  4. The low light capabilities of this camera will be about the best you can get in full frame. Shoot anywhere, anytime.
  5. It is attractive in an odd ugly kind of way, but me, I like it.
  6. It can accept all Nikon F lenses. Modern, AIS, Ai and pre Ai.
  7. 16Mp means better low light, smaller files and plenty of resolution for 99% of needs.
  8. Worlds smallest full frame DSLR. 
  9. The Viewfinder is in reality sufficient for manually focusing classic lenses.
  10. NO VIDEO! To me, this is a plus! There are many others that do video well, we do not need it in this camera. It represents PHOTOGRAPHY.

Of course I can list the cons as well:

  1. Why only 1/4000th second?
  2. Why so FAT and THICK?
  3. Using modern Nikon lenses would look ridiculous with this body and should be illegal to use on it :)
  4. The D610 is $2000, $750 cheaper. 
  5. The Sony A7 and A7r are almost here :)

To those that are bickering over it not having dual memory slots, or faster USB or VIDEO or a million focus points..you are MISSING the ENTIRE point of this camera! To those that want that, you already have MANY choices (D800). Someone like me who uses and has ALWAYS used center point only focus, no flash at all, no video, and wants simplicity then this camera is it in DSLR land. Some complain that you can get a D800 for $3k but again, I would never ever buy a D800 due to size, bulk, and the fact that it looks like a typical large DSLR that will break my back. Not everyone wants flash, dual slots, etc. Did the F cameras from the 70′s have dual film slots? :)

For me, after really taking a serious look at the Df, for the 1st time in 6 years  it is giving me that itch to go for a DSLR again! But this is not your traditional DSLR and if I end up with one it will only be used with small primes, probably 2 old classic lenses and maybe even the still in production 50 1.2 AIS. It may be ugly to some but it is sort of “attractive ugly”. It looks rough and tough. It looks like it can and will inspire confidence. It looks like it would survive a war (not sure it would though).

Df2

Yes, the look has grown on me and while it would have been so much cooler if it were thinner, and had a few things like 1/8000th second, it will be just fine..I expect. It is true..you cannot please all of the people all of the time. No one has been able to do that just yet because there is ALWAYS a give and take. Want world class low light performance? You need less megapixels. Want super high res? Expect to give up high ISO performance a bit.

From looking at traffic to this site and outgoing clicks to check out these cameras the Nikon has created HUGE buzz everywhere just as the Sony A7 series did last week (and I suppose is why Nikon did their announcement a week later). The Df is perfect for Nikon shooters who have load of glass, especially old classic lenses. I would never personally buy a D800, D600 or any DSLR due to the fact I use my cameras every day for every day things..but the Df? Yes, because it does indeed take me back to a time when photography was about “photography” and it looks the part. If it feels and shoots the part I am in. If not, it will go to a good home I am sure.

So I will be a busy guy here with the Sony A7r, Nikon Df, Olympus E-M1, Leica M 240 and possibly the Fuji X-E2...man I love my job! Just hope nothing else new and exciting come out before the end of the year..not sure I could handle it :)

Steve

Order the Nikon Df

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

You can Pre-Order the Nikon Df at Amazon HERE

—–

And now, a quick guest post and image from Brad Husick. For myself and many others, as stated above, we feel the Df is to bulky and thick. In a perfect world the camera Brad describes and shows below would be superb and it is doable, especially from Someone such as Nikon.

My idea for a “Pure Photography” Nikon digital basic

By Brad Husick

Steve, I was so excited to read about the upcoming “Pure Photography” Nikon digital, but when it was announced and shown I was disappointed to see it’s basically a D610 dressed up with a square body and some extra dials (too many in fact).

So here’s my visual concept for a Nikon Dfb (b for basic) that sticks more closely with the idea of a digital F3. No need for an ISO dial or mode dial (how often do we switch them?). No need for most of the buttons. Just set aperture and shutter speed and take pictures. And make it as thin as physically possible.

I hope you like it. I hope they build it.

Brad

 df2

Jun 062012
 

Fun Comparison: Olympus OM-D with Leica Noctilux and Nikon 50/1.2 AIS

by Brad Husick

Now that I am learning to use my new OM-D and enjoying the process, I thought it would be fun to mount some super-fast 50mm lenses and see the results. The two lenses I own in this category are the legendary Leica 50mm f/0.95 ASPH Noctilux ($12,500) and the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS ($695). Both are manual focus lenses. The Nikon has been produced for decades and uses no aspheric glass elements so Nikon has been able to keep the price low for this amazing lens. The Leica 0.95 may represent the state of the art in fast lens design and costs more than most used cars, and about the same number of (nominal) dollars that my parents’ first home cost in the 1950′s.

I think both lenses are capable of some amazing photos. The Noctilux is magical at the widest aperture and quickly sharpens as you stop down. I think its performance is equal to the Leica 50mm f/1.4 ASPH Summilux from f/1.4 to f/16. The Noctilux weighs in at 28 ounces while the Nikon weighs half that amount.

Both lenses were shot at their widest aperture, so this is intended to show what each is capable of producing, rather than a direct comparison of their performance at a given f-stop. I like to shoot these lenses wide open, so that’s the test I performed. I have no doubt that the Noctilux will outperform the Nikon at any given aperture, but you don’t need an advanced degree to guess that. You can buy the Nikon and give one to each of your seventeen best friends for the cost of the Leica.

All the photos were shot in RAW then opened and saved in Lightroom. No adjustments were made except for resizing.

Enjoy the images, and thank you to Starbucks for allowing me to shoot when Seattle is giving us typical June weather (rain!)

click these for the full size crops at 800 pixels wide (shown here at 680)

May 052012
 

Nikon V1 for indoor Sports? by Brad Husick

I tried the V1 system last night to shoot indoor lacrosse and I came away with two impressions: 1) the V1 is a nice camera with the best autofocus of any mirrorless I have tried, and 2) the lenses are so slow that the shutter speeds even at ISO 3200 are in the 1/60 range and every shot was blurred.

Here’s a great example of my results. As you can see the camera nailed the focus (look at the shorts) and the motion blur made for an artistic shot but not very useful as a sports image.

Sadly, the Nikon 1 system is not on my purchase list until they ship some fast lenses. This is a major flaw in my opinion of all the mirrorless camera systems – there simply are no fast zooms. Yes, there are some fast primes, but in many cases a zoom is incredibly useful when you simply can’t use your feet to substitute for a zoom, such as sports.

It is possible to use other systems’ fast zooms on some mirrorless cameras, and I have written an article on one such combination soon to appear here on stevehuffphoto.com.

Apr 092012
 

The Great 35mm Rangefinder Lens Shootout – Part 2 – Close-Up and Wide-Open

By Brad Husick

In part one of “The Great 35mm Rangefinder Lens Shootout” we tested several lenses in a typical landscape scene, setting the lenses at their infinity focus points and shooting at f/4. This represented a fairly typical scenario of grabbing a lens off the shelf, setting it for mid-aperture and taking a photo of a picturesque subject.

Quite often 35mm rangefinder lenses are used in other photographic opportunities. The 35mm focal length is excellent for tighter, indoor settings where the subject is closer. These situations also often call for wider apertures, demanding higher performance from the lenses. In part two of this test we have tested the lenses in both ways – A) a closer indoor setting and then, B) wide-open to see how they render out of focus areas – their bokeh.

For both parts of the test the subject was illuminated by a single 5500K continuous fluorescent light source in a small softbox and outside light was reduced to a minimum. The Leica M9-P camera was set to ISO 640, white balance of 5600K and each lens was shot at f/2.8, with the exception of the Perar that was shot at its maximum of f/3.5. For some of the lenses f/2.8 was also the maximum aperture, while others had wider apertures available. Shutter speed was set to 1/180 second.

In the part B “bokeh” part of this test the same light source was used while each lens was opened to its maximum aperture. For example, the FLE was shot at f/1.4 while the Zeiss was shot at f/2. Shutter speed was adjusted to maintain the same overall exposure. ISO was maintained at 640.

As in part one of the shootout, the RAW images were brought into Adobe Lightroom 4 and default settings were used to output full resolution JPEG images. 100% crops were taken in Adobe Photoshop CS5. The “bokeh” shots were reduced to 800 pixels wide for web display.

In this test we included six lenses from part one:

MS Super Triplet Perar f3.5 Mark II (Perar)

Zeiss Biogon f2.0 T* ZM Silver (Zeiss)

Leica Summilux f1.4 ASPH FLE (FLE)

Leica Summicron-M f2.0 ASPH Chrome (Cron)

Voigtlander C Color Skopar Classic f2.5 (Skopar)

Leitz Summaron f2.8 LTM/M circa 1959 (Summaron)

 

Part A: The Closer Subject

Despite careful focusing, slight variations in focus occurred across the different lenses. This is an important factor – precise focusing, even when using a tripod as in these photos, can be tricky. I suggest using a viewfinder magnifier when possible, and focus-bracketing your shots with minuscule changes in focus so that you can evaluate the images at 100% zoom on your computer to choose the best one. Leica makes the M9 without the capability of tethered shooting (some workarounds are possible but are mostly unreliable), the camera doesn’t offer live-view, and the LCD is not high-resolution, so critical focus is challenging in many situations. Many Leica shooters are hoping that Leica includes a more state-of-the-art LCD and perhaps live-view in a future M digital camera.

In the center crops of these photos all of the test lenses performed well. In fact, the images were all surprisingly good, from the least expensive to the most expensive lens. Center crops showed very little chromatic aberration, as was expected. There’s little variation here that can inform a decision to choose one lens over another.

At the corners the lenses started telling a more interesting tale. Corner sharpness of the Leica FLE was astonishing. It’s as if Leica engineers were told to solve this problem above all others when developing this new lens. Not far behind in corner rendering were the Zeiss and, surprisingly, the old Summaron. In general the Summaron is a lower contrast lens than the modern formulas, but that doesn’t reduce its ability to render detail. Post processing can add more contrast if desired, but it can’t make a contrasty lens softer without a loss of detail. The Summicron showed some about of distortion in the corner that the others did not. The Skopar is a lens that can achieve sharp results at the center but in my experience this falls away at the corners. Adding to the challenge is the fact that the Skopar has a very short focus throw – the number of degrees of rotation between infinity and close focus endpoints. This means that the smallest movement of the focus ring results in large changes. I resorted to focus-bracketing when shooting the Skopar, taking multiple photos with tiny adjustments to the focus in successive shots, then comparing the results in Lightroom and choosing the sharpest image. This is not my idea of entertainment.  The Perar was particularly challenged in the corners, showing distortion and lower resolution.

Interestingly and rather unexpectedly, the FLE lens showed a fairly high level of chromatic aberration in the specular highlights in the corners. I am including a couple of crops here to show you the unprocessed corner and the same shot when processed by Lightroom 4 using the “Defringe – All Edges” control in the Manual setting of the Lens Corrections panel of the Develop module. Default lens corrections using Lightroom’s preset lens profiles of Leica lenses reduced but did not eliminate the color fringing while the defringe control did a more complete correction. Again, the purpose of this test is not to show what’s ultimately possible with each lens given any amount of post-processing, but this example is particularly illustrative of how good software can help even super-expensive setups.

Leica 35 Summilux FLE corner crop

and after the Lightroom 4 “Defringe – All edges”

 

To my eye the old Summaron did a splendid job in this part of the test. I have a feeling the demand for Summaron lenses will increase soon!

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Perar Center 

and corner

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Zeiss Center

and corner

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FLE Center

and corner

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Summicron Center

and corner

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Skopar Center

and corner

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Summaron Center

and corner

 

Part B: Bokeh

I have included full frames reduced to 800 pixels wide for the comparison of the bokeh rendered by each of the lenses. I find little value in comparing 100% crops of the out of focus areas. Obviously the lenses that have the largest maximum aperture create the shallowest depth of field. These lenses throw the background out of focus most, usually giving the smoothest rendering and a very three-dimensional look to the images. The Leica FLE is an excellent example of this shallow depth of field.

In the time when film was dominant, most photographers were limited to relatively slow color films (ASA 25 or 64) and fairly slow black and white films (ASA 100 or 400). Consequently, large aperture lenses were necessary for most indoor subjects. There simply wasn’t a choice – you needed a fast lens to get any photo at all.

With the advent of today’s digital cameras, it’s common to shoot at ISO 640, 1250 or even higher. Lens speed isn’t critical to getting the shot, it’s now more of a creative choice. Photographers who love the look of a shallow depth of field reach for the Summilux (f/1.4) or even Noctilux (f/1 or f/0.95) lenses to give their photos that “look”. Many choose these lenses in bright light situations, mounting neutral density (ND) filters on the lenses to reduce incoming light by as much as 9 f-stops or more depending on the available light. The Leica M8 has a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 second while the M9 has a maximum of 1/4000 second, requiring one slower stop of light for wide open shooting.

Rather than trying to rank order the bokeh test shots, I present them here for you to study and draw your own conclusions about what type of rendering is most pleasing to your eye. Naturally, the Perar lens with its maximum aperture of f/3.5 will have the most in-focus background. There are small variations in the lighting between shots, but the overall look of the photos are easy to compare.

Perar

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Zeiss

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Leica Lux FLE

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Summicron

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Skopar

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Summaron

 

Bokeh is an image attribute that can also be achieved in software. Alien Skin makes a Photoshop plug-in product called Bokeh 2.0 that does an admirable job of creating bokeh in images after they were shot, even going so far as to model the attributes of several well known fast lenses, although not Leica lenses. Photoshop 6 (now in beta test) has an advanced blur filter that also mimics the behavior of different lenses to give a natural-looking bokeh effect.

Some photographers eagerly use many tools to give them the look they desire in their photographs while others see the digital manipulation of images as something to be avoided, something that diminishes from the photographic experience. My personal view is that except for photojournalism where truth is paramount, creative control is in the hands of the photographer and creative tools have always been at our disposal, in the analog and digital worlds. The development of more advanced and even easier digital tools is not taking us further away from “real” photographs, it is making it possible for photographers to show us how they “saw” a scene from their own perspective.

Finally, it’s important to consider several factors when choosing from among these lenses. The size and weight of lenses can be important, so clearly the Perar, Summaron and Skopar are the leaders here. If size and weight are not an issue, the Biogon, FLE and Cron are the image quality leaders. One of these lenses is remarkably heavier than the others – the Summicron ASPH Chrome. It’s a solid-brass lens that feels extremely dense when you lift it to mount on the camera. All of these 35mm rangefinder lenses are small and light in comparison to 35mm SLR lenses from Canon or Nikon.

All of these lenses are easy to handle, except the Skopar due to its short focus throw. Even the tiny Perar with its pin-shaped focusing tab is easy to focus with just a little practice. As I pointed out in part one of this test, prices vary widely among this group of lenses, starting at just over $300 for the Color Skopar to more than $6000 for the Leica Summilux ASPH.

My advice is to first decide what type of look you like most in your photos, then see what choices there are at the prices you’re willing to spend for a 35mm lens in your kit. Some photographers like to have two lens “kits” to choose from – a “small-and-light kit” for maximum portability and a “fast kit” for low-light situations. At the 35mm focal length there are plenty of good choices for the rangefinder shooter.

Brad Husick

Mar 282012
 

The Great 35mm Rangefinder Lens Shootout! UPDATED!

by Brad Husick March 27, 2012

Many of us have GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and have amassed a generous collection of lenses for our rangefinder cameras. The problem with having a wide selection of lenses to choose from is that when we reach up to grab a lens for our next shoot it’s sometimes hard to decide what to take. At one point my collection was up to 22 lenses and at that point I had become a collector as much as a photographer. Well, over the past few years I have whittled that collection down to the lenses I like most just for their optical qualities. My collecting interest has been refocused on photographs – the ones I take.

Fortunately for this test I still own too many lenses and I have a close friend who owns many more, so I thought I’d begin a series of tests with 35mm rangefinder lenses. These are not laboratory controlled tests of carefully arranged objects but a typical outdoor scene from a local spot here on Lake Washington near Seattle – a subject more people are likely to shoot from day-to-day. The results are my subjective opinion of the optical quality of the photos, and I am including 100% crops for you to make your own conclusions. Here’s the full frame 35mm shot:

Test Setup:

The test was set up to control and keep constant as many of the variables as possible. Photos were taken on a Leica M9-P mounted on a tripod, set at ISO 160, shutter speed 1/750 sec., aperture f/4, lenses set to their infinity focus point. Not all the lenses had the same maximum aperture and the day was bright enough that trying to shoot wide-open would have required the use of ND filters. I did not want to introduce any glass in front of the lenses for this test. The shutter was tripped using the 2-second self timer to minimize any hand vibrations. RAW files were brought into Adobe Lightroom 4 and exported as JPEG files with no adjustments from default settings.

The weather here in Seattle was in the 50′s with complete overcast and light winds. We get this ideal overcast many days a year – great for photographs, not too great for sun tanning.

The Eight Contestants in the Shootout:

MS Super Triplet Perar f3.5 Mark II (Perar)

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Leica Summarit-M f3.5, current version (Summarit)

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Zeiss Biogon f2.0 T* ZM Silver (Zeiss)

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Leica Summilux f1.4 ASPH FLE (FLE)

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Leica Summicron-M f2.0 ASPH Chrome (Chrome ASPH)

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Leica Summicron-M f2.0 ASPH Black (Black ASPH)

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Voigtlander C Color Skopar Classic f2.5 (Skopar)

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Leitz Summaron f2.8 LTM/M circa 1959 (Summaron)

Lens Results:

I examined 100% crops near the center of the frame and at the top left corner. I studied the files looking for overall sharpness and ability to resolve detail, micro-contrast, lack of chromatic aberration (fringing) and distortion.

Not surprisingly, the Leica Summilux ASPH FLE was the top performer at both the center and corner of the frame. Leica took an already excellent lens, the Summilux ASPH, and corrected the focus shift issue by incorporating a new floating element in the FLE. The price of the new lens climbed substantially, with some selling for nearly $8000 a few months after introduction when the initial supply ran dry. Prices have since settled around $6500.

Somewhat surprising is how well the Zeiss Biogon performed, especially at the center, scoring a second place for center performance. Sharpness and detail were excellent. Overall contrast was higher than the FLE perhaps due to different lens coatings. Ergonomics are superb with buttery smooth focus and f-stop. Some may not like the chrome ring around the front of the lens that functions as a bayonet for the optional hood, but I don’t think it detracts from the lens. The Zeiss is the performance-value winner here with new lenses available for around $1000.

I compared two seemingly identical Leica Summicron-ASPH lenses, one black and the other chrome. They were not optically identical. The chrome lens was marginally superior at both the center and corner. This could be due to some slight variation in infinity focus between the two lenses. The pair of Summicron-ASPH lenses scored well, coming in second and third at the corner and third and forth at the center. The Summicron has always been a staple of the Leica shooter and will probably remain there. Used prices range from $2500-$3000.

Leica’s modern Summarit-M is positioned as an entry level lens for the Leica shooter, and is a small and affordable package. Optically however, the Summarit came in fifth in the ranking for overall softness and a lack of micro contrast; a somewhat disappointing result for a modern lens design. The Summarit is list priced at $1895 with clean used lenses selling for $1400.

The Leitz Summaron from 1959 is a beautiful lens with sculpted sloping edges and an unusual focus tab that incorporates an infinity lock. Sharpness of the Summaron was soft, but lacked any chromatic aberration – a surprising result for such an old design and the state of lens coatings from that time period. The softness of the lens was pleasing, giving a somewhat nostalgic look to the photograph. Shooters looking for some of that classic old Leica glow won’t be disappointed with the Summaron. However, compared with modern optics the Summaron just can’t resolve the way the newer glass can perform. Clean used Summarons can be found for around $1000.

Last but not least in the shootout was a personal favorite – the unique MS Super Triplet Perar, often called simply the “Perar”. It’s been a favorite of mine because it is simply tiny. It’s smaller than any Leica collapsible lens in the collapsed state! The aperture is step-free and the focus is smooth with a focus “pin” to assist. Traveling with this lens is a joy since it barely sticks out from the front of the camera and it’s always in a ready-to- shoot position, unlike collapsible lenses. As good as the physical design and ergonomics are, the optical performance of the lens is not up to the standards set by the more complicated and expensive lenses in this test. Perar images are good at center but sharpness falls off at the edges. Perar lenses can be found on ebay and at the maker’s website www.japanexposures.com.

Vignetting is not a problem for any of these lenses and chromatic aberration is well handled by the entire group.

Here are my subjective rankings of the lenses:

Note: I’d like to thank my dear friend Ed (goes by the handle “fishandfowl” on many boards) for making available five of the lenses in this test. Ed introduced me to rangefinder photography and thus improved my life greatly.

Brad

UPDATE!!

ARTICLE UPDATE (3-29-12):
In my initial test the Skopar performed quite poorly when set to the infinity focus setting on the lens. I re-ran the test, this time backing the focus off from infinity by the smallest amount I could turn the ring in the case where the infinity stop was overshooting slightly. Center sharpness improved substantially while edge distortion remained problematic. This is probably due in part to the Leica Thread Mount (LTM) – to – Leica M bayonet adapter being used.

Here are the new Skopar crops:

Based on these new results I have revised my rankings:

Some visitors posted comments about the overall quality of the images in comparison to other camera systems. To assist in evaluating these images, I have included two more cameras – the Leica D-Lux 5, a highly respected small-imager camera set to 35mm zoom, f/4 and base ISO, and the Apple iPhone 4S, an 8 megapixel imager with an approximate angle of view of 30mm. I think most readers will agree that neither measures up to the images produced with the Leica M9-P. The iPhone was surprisingly good for a phone and has the unique quality of always being at hand when a photo is required.

iPhone 4s

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D-Lux 5

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