Dec 272012
 

My Leica love and Pursuit by Nilton Junior

Hi guys! My name is Nilton (speak it as Newton) and I would like to share with you a little about my Leica love and pursuit.

I can say that the very begging is when I was about 9 or 10 years old and my beloved Mom had a small eyeglasses store, I was there all time listening about dioptric grads, types of glasses, aberrations, and others optical terms, but the most I can remember was about good glasses from Carls Zeiss that she no so often used to sell. It was fantastic; if I remember right it was the most exotic glass you could buy for your frame in that time. Here it is, my very first memories about good German optics.

Panasonic GX1 + Canon FD 55mm 1.2f @ 1.4f – ISO 800 – 1/400

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When I was about 17 years old I realized I really loved Physics, Mechanical Physics, but pretty much Optic Physics as well, so I went to engineering school. There I had my second touch with German optics products as I performed a 2 year government paid research about laser emission from neodymium glass at about ultra violet spectrum, almost not visible light. So what equipment did I use to make all that measurements of emission, reflection and absorption? Almost all very high precision equipment was from Leica or Zeiss. They are the most well named brands between scientists tools and an optical lab, without them is legless, or so.

Well, but what does all of that geek stuff have to do about photography? Probably nothing but making a big story short, when little small things from the past creates standards and marks at our minds and influence ours decisions about every thing in life, this has done  a lot for my photography style, and I can tell it is just the beginning.

Fujifilm X100 from my wife J @ 2.0f – ISO 3200 – 1/300

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In 2007 I was about to make my first trip for Europe, and decided to buy a decent camera. I knew nothing about photography, but remember that the seed was planted, so I bought a Canon G9! Yes… I know, WTF?! Actually, the only preference I had that time that remains in me today is, I want a damn small but powerful camera with me. Never thought about using an SLR.

So after that trip I realized that the G9 didn’t achieve the image quality I wanted. I mean, it is a pretty good camera, but autofocus, high ISO and available light photography are not the highs from it. I needed to move on.

Panasonic GX1 + Olympus 12mm 2.0 @ 2.0f – ISO 160 – 1/3200

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So talking about photography with my best friend (this damn lucky boy today works at Playboy Magazine) he told me that a certain company was making partnership with Leica glass. Yes, something inside my head instantly lighted up and it all made sense. I WANT A LEICA. That time I didn´t know Leica and Zeiss made photographic products, I was a lab geek, remember?

Panasonic GX1 + Summilux 25mm @ 1.4f – ISO 160 – 1/1300

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So I started to research the most I could about Leica glass and the company making the trade with them. So I discovered Panasonic. Yes. My life brought me here, to Panasonic MFT cameras line up! I know that apparently Steve likes Olympus more but I never tried Olympus, but man, they don´t have the Leica partnership, J. I bought the GF1 and that was passion at first click and of course bought a summilux 25mm too.

That time I knew little about M cameras, just knew they were (and are) insanely expensive and that I would never, ever, ever buy one. I was so happy with my Panasonic/Summilux combo, it is a little taste and the closest I could get from a real Leica. From then to now I changed my GF1 for a GX1 and don’t regret that decision. It is very superior with faster autofocus and better high ISO capabilities. I’ve recently started trying third-party lenses with adaptor.

The major brand I use for my MFT camera is Canon FD. They are cheap and you can get great results. I just love my Canon FD 55mm 1.2f.

Panasonic GX1 + Canon FD 100-200mm 5.6 @ 16f – ISO 160 – 1/500

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But, what about Leica?! Is it in that tinny dark area from my heart? Forgotten? NEVER!  After discovering, about one and half-year ago, Steve’s Site, I made a decision, I will buy my Leica M with a summilux 50, so I started saving. Yes, I’m on budget and hope I can get my hands over the new Leica M next year!

PS.: Please, I hope my English isn’t that bad, it is not my native language.

Best regards guys!

Nilton Junior

www.photon-x.com.br

Jul 102012
 

Dear Steve,

After for quite long times seeing so many great photos of Leica lenses everywhere from your portfolios and many photographers,  the character… the overall signature that I myself can’t explain.. beside enjoying the results..All that poisons (oops.. sorry..) already built this desire to know and shoot it personally.

Three months ago, a friend from Munich, offer me this vintage Leitz Wetzlar Summicron-R 1:2/50. I know it’s not the Leica M mount but it’s way in the affordable range price in Leica league. Fortunately.. I still could manage to afford the Leitz.. its from 1969. After a 2 week wait for the old Leitz to arrive from Munich… I am so overwhelmed!  I already bought .. well .. not a Novoflex adapter (that would cost almost like the lens)… I can afford a generic adapter to M4/3 body.

I know the Cron R50 would crop 2x becoming 100 mm lens and that’s not my comfort zone ( I am just a beginner and get used to 50 mm range). Some friends said I am into nothing buying the big names a great lens, and match it with this unholy matrimony with Micro 4/3 body with old sensor . The combination will kill almost all the beauty and power from the Cron R50..well… I know guys.. I can only get some of the goodness.. but stubborn me.

For 2.5 months straight I’ve been using the combo every day. I think I have started to get used to them.. the unbalanced weight to the front… the very prone to flare character of the lens (CMIIW). Call me a nut but there is some mojo that comes from this unusual combo. It’s not the crazy bokeh definitely (imagine F2.0 in M4/3 body).. or not even the perfectness of Leica design (it’s a vintage Cron R50 , after all). Or maybe the Lens simply boost my spirit to keep shooting and practicing. Oh well.. I simply want to share my journey with the Cron R 50 for this 2 months (and still going).

At first…. I am so confused what to shoot . My first curiosity is why the Summicron becoming a standard or reference… some said because the sharpness. Some of my first shots are simply a test of sharpness. Some of daily things I met in my life … all are shots in F4.0.

 

 Vase and flower.. small vase.. Scale.. and Kettle… (somehow reminds me of Beauty and The Beast animation)

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Shots of a restaurant kitchen… (ok.. I am fans of ratatouille animation movie)

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Breads and Cakes

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901.. Pile of Glasses in darkness

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879.. The Chairs… I somehow captivated by the light and how it bounce to the floor

 

I also try to know how sharp it can be.. I think the limit in MFT body is F8.. and the Flare… definitely there

Statue in the garden on Sunset… (using the hood already)

 

 

ok… the Cron is good to shoot unmoving objects… not human..how about Humans ?? how about chasing a manual focus of Cron R50 with GF2 ?? counting only by live view LCD ? Can I do it ?? Here are some human object shots (street shots, candid) and how I get used to chase my baby moves with the Cron R50 and GF2

I shot some students doing a video projects .. a small commercial on the park.. and tested the bokeh in F2.0

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Music for all.. the body is Rasta .. but the play the classic piece beautifully

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a stranger relaxing and reading book

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979 a chef is working behind the kitchen

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She shoot.. I shoot

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786 a violin teacher playing in the park

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a trio violin …

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Using cellphone while doing construction work..

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woman washing her hand

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a street beggar and his daughter

 

Ok… how about shooting quite fast-moving object.. its my baby… I learn to shoot people.. cause of her.. baby Daini. Can I cath her photos using Cron R50 in GF2 ? I think after get used to the manual focusing.. I can but not as fast and as productive as Pan Leica 25 mm AF.

 

my baby Daini in various expression .. Shots using Cron R50

 

Well… its been a crazy 2.5 months… forcing my self using manual focus only but man, I do enjoy the time.

I love the Cron R50. The lens can be sharp even in F2.0 but it is most appropriate sharp in F4.0 and while the bokeh is not very prominent (well F2.0 in a 2x crop body ??) the flare is definitely there. The 50 becomes 100.. it has the advantages of becoming a mid zoom. So what s a Leica look anyway ? After these shots.. and many more.. I really can’t tell.. I just feel it.. ok.. ok.. its absurd.. I know! But the main thing is.. I am having great times shooting it.

I can’t be technical.. I am just a beginner … this is not a review whatsoever.. it’s just my personal journey.

 

Sincerely

William Jusuf

Jun 292012
 

Dear Steve..

I really enjoying these last month , seeing so many thrilled news from photography world… Waiting for your review and opinion of OMD... X-Pro 1, then comes out the M9 Monochrome, X2 and now you are visiting your X100

Its been such pleasure and inspiring moments … reading your website and many friend’s opinion. Myself, actually this 2 months.. I ve been blessed with opportunity to use my friend’s Fuji X100 for 3 weeks… and Canon G12 for 2 weeks, Ive been doing some opinion on adapting with X100 and the evolution of learning it , also how I enjoy pocket again with G12 but since you already doing some revisiting Fuji X100… I ll wait for other time to post my 3 weeks experiences with Fuji X100..

I also inspired to do Revisiting an old friend..Olympus F.Zuiko Auto-S 50mm F1.8 …serial 130082.. paired with my dear GF2.. without any EVF.. I am used to use LCD live view (coming from P&S camera). This Oly Zuiko is my first manual lens bought when I learn to shoot with Micro 4/3… GF2… (very affordable lens) but somehow after I am using Pan Leica 25 mm and Olympus 45mm .. The manual Oly has not been mounted as much as before..

Then in 2 occasion, I only take this Oly Zuiko 50 mm .. revisiting this lovely old lenses…The first occasion is a big Traditional Culinary Festival.. me and my dear friend visiting the festival on Midnight.. He is using his OMD while I am shooting GF2 and Manual Olympus 50mm

 

First picture is a couple selling Traditional food called Telur Kerak.. I do in color.. ISO 640; 1/100 sec; F2.8

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Then I candid a gorgeus lady smiling while texting SMS Iso 640; 1/40 sec Handheld; F1.8

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I shoot a local chef roasting the corn Iso 640; 1/100 sec; F1.8

 

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The I took picture of a mother, whispering and comforting her son that just get bump and get a cut in the head Iso 640; 1/80 sec; F2.8

 

The second occasion is a dear friend, Umar, who is a photographer from Medan visiting jakarta for only 3 days. He also use Panasonic GF2 and array of manual lenses. We meet up in saturday midnight on one of most visited people’s park on midnight… well it’s not park.. its big water fountain filled with people. I use my GF2 and Manual Olympus Zuiko 50 mm. Umar use GF2 with some SMC Takumar 35mm and that is the first time I met Umar in person.. we usually just helping each other in the net. This time I embrace myself to boost the ISO to more than ISO 640 (I don’t usually do that with GF2).

 

Picture of a local coffee seller on his bike waiting for buyer…ISO 1000. F2.0.. 1/20 Sec handheld

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Picture of two street singer ..ISO 1000…. 1/60 Sec.. F2.0

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Picture of a dancing singing street singer SO 1000.. F1.8.. 1/100 Sec

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The last picture is a photo of my friend Umar, shooting with His GF2 and SMC Takumar 35 mm ISO 1000 … F2.8… 1/100 Sec

I simply feel different when looking at the picture taken with my old friend. The Manual Olympus 50 MM F1.8. I admit that its not as sharp as my Pan Leica 25 mm… the color is not as life as the Fuji X100. I can’t shoot too hastily since I am using a 100 mm (converted from 50mm) handheld in crowd midnight situation. These experiences make me to think more before I shoot…

But these revisiting my old Olympus Zuiko 50 mm F1.8, refresh myself. I am in the decision of buying Olympus OMD5… but still work on the budget. Honestly, I envy my friend who already shoot everywhere in the midnight with the OMD. But this experience makes me rethink… maybe I must wait… patiently… while enjoying the process of taking picture ..think.. compose and takes pictures.

I love great gear … but since mine has the limitation.. I must keep learning to use all the capability of my GF2. Using an affordable manual lens like Olympus Zuiko 50 mm F1.8.. makes me refresh again. That I still lack a lot in vision and technique. I should keep learning and enjoying . I might get a better gear later on but in the meanwhile.. the enjoyment using whatever Camera and Lens in possession is also a beautiful process. All friends and Steve website been a big inspiration for me .

Keep up the great work..

Thank you Steve and all friends.

sincerely

William Jusuf

Nov 212011
 

THE PANASONIC GF1 – A LANDMARK CAMERA

 

By KJ Vogelius

Could it be? A digital Leica facsimile for the everyman? Image quality without compromise in a small, light and well handling package at a reasonable price? The perfect everyday camera?

Compactness, handling and image quality are each others enemies when it comes to camera design. You can’t really have one without compromising the other. In the digital realm it’s been even more evident. You’ve only had the choice of extremes – small, with dubious handling and image quality – or – good handling and image quality in a huge body. A sweet spot between the three haven’t really existed since the analog era.

The GF1 is the first digital camera to arrive at that sweet spot, and does so in a fantastic manner turning it into something of a modern classic.

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Body & size

Pretty much half the size of the 5D Mk II, smaller still than the famously compact Leica M cameras, the GF1 is about the ideal size – small enough to always be with you without getting in the way, but big enough to grip and control comfortably. It’s low weight also helps it to stay almost invisible when not in use (the body weighs 285g compared to 810g for the 5D MkII or 585g for the Leica M9).

 

Another, very nice side effect of the more compact dimension is that it’s much less imposing when photographing people. I find it much easier to get natural, more relaxed, expressions with the GF1 than the 5D. Not needing to have it glued to your face probably helps as well.

It’s not quite as good looking as the beautiful Olympus E-P1/2/3 but has a nice understated, almost utilitarian, charm to it. Though like with the LX3 I do wish they’d skipped the cheap looking chrome accents.

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Handling & Auto Focus

There have been a number of small digital cameras with good image quality before the GF1, but their Achilles heel has always been the handling. Taking long to start up, focusing slowly, slow to react to commands, long shutter lag, poor ergonomics, and often all of the above.

The GF1 has none of those problems. It turns on instantly. Input registers quickly. There’s very little shutter lag. Important settings are quick to access and controls are placed conveniently.

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I was also very surprised to find the auto focus experience with the GF1 better than that of my 5D Mk II. Usually as fast, as reliable, and far more flexible. The 23-point-focusing is probably the cleverest AF system I’ve used.

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Image quality

I still find it amazing; the quality I can get out of this tiny camera. Sharp, detailed photos with the signature depth and fidelity that only a large sensor can give.

Shooting RAW is a necessity, JPEGs from the GF1 are underwhelming. Low light is also slightly problematic – image quality degrades quickly above ISO 800 (up to 1600 is useable in a pinch). The metering is usually spot on. Colors are good, not great, out of camera, but corrects well in RAW processing.

Something very nice with the Micro Four Thirds system is that it uses the squarer 4:3 aspect ratio, which I find much better balanced compared to the more common 3:2 ratio.

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Compared to other cameras I’ve shot with the image quality of the GF1 is second only to the full frame 5D Mk II and at times there’s honestly not much telling them apart.

 

The Amazing 20/1.7

While the GF1 is undoubtably a fantastic camera, it’s not as unique as the lens that was sold with it – the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7. This large aperture, tiny lens is a huge reason why I like the GF1 as much as I do.

 

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The images rendered through this lens are wonderful – sharp and vivid with an ability to render small detail in a way I’ve only seen from Zeiss and Leica lenses, usually much more expensive, before.

This all comes together to make it one of my all time favorite lenses and a true must have for the Micro Four Thirds system.

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Viewfinder

While I mostly prefer using the rear screen for composing, it’s nice to have the option of an eye level viewfinder. Particularly in difficult light – when the screen washes out in bright light or when a longer shutter speed is needed – it’s difficult to hand hold steadily using the rear screen.

There’s an add on EVF for attachment in the hot shoe which looks like an clever solution. Unfortunately it’s very poor quality – the resolution is low, there’s a ton of ghosting and the refresh rate leaves much to be desired. Hence, I wouldn’t recommend it.

I found a solution in the Olympus optical viewfinder, made for their 17/2.8. It’s actually a better match for the angle of view of the 20/1.7 than the Olympus lens it was made for.

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It’s very bright, has great eye point and it’s also much cheaper on eBay than other alternatives – I paid around $30. There are drawbacks – no shooting information or auto focus confirmation in the finder and only usable with one focal length, but I’ve found the advantages to be well worth it.

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Shooting Legacy Lenses

A huge advantage of Micro Four Thirds and other systems like it is that due to the short register distance of the lens mount, pretty much any other lens can be used on the camera with the correct adapter – including tiny rangefinder lenses. Especially great for anyone invested in another system.

Shooting legacy lenses on the GF1 is somewhat of a kludge however. It’s nice in the way it handles – setting the aperture on the lens itself just feels right. Seeing the already stopped down image on the screen also has advantages; it’s much easier to judge depth of field and focus shift is a non issue. The image quality is also potentially fantastic, despite the smaller sensor.

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The big problem is critical focusing with brighter lenses. Since the GF1 lacks functions such as focus peaking or picture-in-picture included in more recent cameras, a little procedure of zooming in to focus is required before each shot, loosing sense of the overall composition and making timing much more difficult.

For anyone planning to do a lot of shooting with legacy lenses – the GF1 is simply not the best choice. Fortunately the native lens offerings of the Micro Four Thirds system is fantastic and getting better by the day.

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A Landmark Camera

Considering that it’s been more than two years since the GF1 was introduced it’s surprising how relevant it still feels. No other camera has really arrived at that sweet spot between compactness, handling and image quality with the same poise – it’s descendants, siblings and various competitors all held back by over-simplification, poor handling, or lackluster lenses.

The GF1′s strengths are all about being an everyday camera. There’s no fairy dust in it. Together with the 20/1.7 it excels at making real life look real, neither subtracting nor adding in itself. It’s no crutch you can rely on for cool effect.

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For capturing the ebb and flow of day to day life there’s very little to improve upon. The GF1 is much more than just the sum of it’s parts, turning it into a true landmark in digital photography and possibly my favorite camera of all time.

More of my photos, work and articles can be found on my site.

Thank you Steve for your site and for publishing this article, and thank you everyone else for reading.

 

KJ Vogelius

Dec 172010
 

From Steve: I’ve been busy all week testing out the Pentax K5 with the 40mm 1.9 Limited lens but this week has been all about Guest Articles! So let’s keep it moving along with another from David Babsky, who if you remember wrote THIS controversial article a while back. What do you think of his new article? Feel free to comment and enjoy! You can also comment in the forums HERE.

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“Leica M9.5″ – The Small But Excellent Panasonic GF1 by David Babsky

Invited to the UK launch of the Panasonic AG-AF101 micro-four-thirds video camcorder (also known as the AG-AF100 in the USA) I thought I’d take a Four-Thirds-to-Micro-Four-Thirds lens adapter with me. This was so that I could use the Leica Digilux-3 lenses I had in my cupboard on this new camcorder. For good measure, I thought I’d take a Canon-to-micro-4/3 and a Leica-to-m4/3 adaptor, too, so that I could try Canon and Leica lenses on this new video camera.

To check out the Leica Digilux-3 lenses on a micro-4/3 stills camera before trying them on the camcorder, I hunted for a suitable camera: Olympus Pen? No; weird shape and slow autofocus. Panasonic micro-4/3 single-lens-reflex? No; too bulky. Panasonic GF1? ..Looks good, and with a reputation for very fast focus and excellent image quality ..and I’ve been using Pannys for a while, so I know where the buttons are and what they do.

Micro-four-thirds, of course, uses the same size sensor as the original ‘Four Thirds’ (Olympus, Panasonic and Leica) standard used in, for example, the ‘Leica’ Digilux-3 (which was really a Panasonic L1 by another name). It’s a sensor about a *quarter* the size of the Leica M9′s full-35mm-frame sensor, so it sees the view through only the central region of any full-frame lens. A normal 50mm lens becomes, effectively, a 100mm lens when used on a 4/3 – or micro-4/3 – sensor, but it keeps the same aperture settings. Although the Four Thirds (and micro-4/3) sensor is roughly a quarter the physical size of the Leica M9′s full-frame sensor, they currently have *two-thirds* the resolution of the M9, with – presently – 12 megapixels, compared with the M9′s 18 megapixels. So using just the central highest-resolution region of high resolution Leica prime (non-zoom) lenses, the 12 megapixel micro-4/3 GF1 may be able to out-resolve, or give ‘better’ results than, the 10 megapixel Leica M8 and M8.2 sensors, at least at low ISO settings – although any flaws in the central region of any lens will also be magnified by two. The m-4/3 sensor may give more digital “noise” at higher ISO settings than the Leicas, because each actual pixel ‘photo-site’ is smaller, and so captures less light at a given moment than the bigger sensors in the Leicas. So the ‘signal-to-noise’ ratio of the Leicas’ larger Kodak sensors may be more impressive than results with the smaller sensors in m-4/3 cameras. Panny 12 megapixel pictures can’t, for example, deliver as much enlargement as the 18 megapixel pics of the M9 before fuzzy or unsightly ‘pixellation’ sets in.

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The little micro-4/3 camera in the middle (the GF1, or ‘Leica M9.5′) and its one lens replaces the big 4/3 Leica Digilux-3 on on the left, and *almost* replaces the big Leica M9 on the right – and all those other lenses!

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The various m-4/3 lens adaptors have no glass inside: they’re just “extension tubes” to hold non-micro-4/3 lenses further from the sensor than the proper ‘designed-for-m-4/3′ lenses, so that lenses built for larger cameras with a greater lens-to-sensor ‘flange-back’ distance will focus correctly onto the m-4/3 chip. Panasonic’s own adaptor includes nine contacts to transmit power and info between Four-Thirds lenses and m-4/3 camera bodies so that the lenses’ electrical circuits (should) work properly. But as there’s no stabilisation, auto-focus or auto-aperture in Leica-M lenses, the Leica-M-to-m4/3 adaptor is just a metal tube with a precision mount on each end.

What a revelation! I’d bought a small second-hand Minolta CLE film camera to mount my Leica lenses on, as the M9 is just too heavy and too bulky to be a proper pocket camera ..for me, anyway. (Why is it BIGGER than the original Leica M3 of 1954?) ..But the Panny GF1 Leica-lens-plus-teeny-body combination is *exactly* what I’d been looking for! Leica has a partnership with Panasonic going back many years (the Leica Digilux cameras were Pannys in different livery, and the Leica V-Lux 20 is just the Panny TZ10 (its UK name) with a red dot on it). Leica should now grab the Panny GF1 – on its way to being phased out as the new GF2 is on its way – and should re-brand it as the Leica ‘M9.5′ (with a black dot on it, just like the M8.2) ..and that, I think, would be the perfect pocket camera, just as Oskar Barnack intended!

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Delicious patterns, textures and colours of Christmas fare: straight-out-of-camera jpegs from the GF1 (click for larger). Why no similar comparison shots taken with the M9..? Because the 56-year-old rangefinder mechanism of the current M9 can’t focus close enough to take these shots. The GF1, er ‘M9.5′, offers manual and auto focus – with anti-shake image stabilisation – for close-ups and small apertures at high or low ISO. The first image was shot at ISO 3200 ..not bad for a small sensor, eh? (The M9 won’t go above ISO 2500, without dialing-in some under-exposure.) (F) was shot at ISO 1600. All these were taken with the default Panasonic 14-45mm ‘kit’ lens.

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All the Leica lenses I’ve tried fit the GF1 – especially the wonderful Dual Range f/2 50mm which is unusable beyond 4 metres on the M9 (..or 2 metres on the M8 and M8.2..) because its focusing cam bangs against the digital M cameras’ metering cell! Doh! The exotic long-rear-end Russar 20mm doesn’t fit on the GF1, because its back end protrudes too far, but the less protrusive Voigtländer 21mm (and the Voigtländer 15mm and 12mm) will fit perfectly, and give brilliantly sharp shots!

These wide lenses don’t need extra external viewfinders on the GF1 – unlike using them on a Leica M – because What You See Is What You Get; the ‘live view’ screen on the back of the GF1 (..let’s call it the ‘Leica 9.5′ from now on..) shows exactly what each lens sees ..and a small clip-on electronic viewfinder is available if you can’t – or don’t want to – focus at arm’s length.

Focusing with older Lumix/Leica 4/3 lenses, which don’t auto-focus on the GF1 – or with any Lumix lens set to Manual Focus – will automatically give a magnified view on the camera’s focusing screen to help get the focus spot-on: connection pins in the 4/3-to-m4/3 adaptor tell the camera that focus is being manually adjusted. This doesn’t happen automatically with other lenses on a ‘dumb’ adaptor, like Leica, Canon or 35mm-film Olympus, as there are no connector pins on these adaptors to tell the camera what’s happening inside the lens. But by pushing IN on the over/under-exposure adjustment wheel on the back of the camera, focus-magnification’s turned on with ALL ‘dumb’ lenses!

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The M9′s redeeming feature is that it beats the GF1 in richness and depth of colour, in both day and at dusk, which the GF1 just can’t match – yet! Last one at ISO 2000.

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As focal lengths effectively double when used with 4/3 sensors – compared with full-35mm-frame sensors – the Leica f/2.8 14-50mm wide-aperture zoom from the old Digilux-3 becomes an f/2.8 28-90mm zoom on the GF1 (as it did on the old Digilux itself), and Panasonic’s Leica-branded f/3.5 14-150mm Digilux-3 lens behaves as a 28-300mm super-zoom. But those older 4/3 Digilux lenses are big and bulky compared with the newer miniature f/3.5 14-45mm and f/4 14-140mm lenses designed especially for the GF1 ..er, ‘Leica M9.5′ *micro*-four-thirds system. The Digilux-3 wide-aperture f/2.8 14-50mm would seem to have the edge over the new smaller-aperture f/4 14-45mm, but not so, because in-built stabilisation in the old lens doesn’t work when used on the ’9.5′, but stabilisation in the new miniature lenses *does*, giving an extra two stops’ worth of non-shake shooting!

Fitting Leica’s f/2.5 75mm Summarit-M on the ’9.5′ camera gives a small and pocketable f/2.5 140mm that’s a fraction of the size of the M9-plus-Leica’s-own f/2.8 135mm ..which needs a crane to hoist and hold it!

A Leica 24mm lens behaves like a 48mm, of course ..but using the Cosina-made Voigtländer *12mm* on the ’9.5′ gives pretty much the same view as a 24mm on an M9. (The Panasonic 8mm – and 7-14mm zoom – will approximate to a similar view as Leica’s super-wide-angle ‘Tri-Elmar’ 16-21mm zoom at its widest setting, so all wide-angle boxes are ticked if you splash out on an 8mm.)

The Voigtländer 21mm gives – oddly – a far wider view than Panasonic’s own 20mm f/1.7 autofocus m-4/3 ‘pancake’ lens when used on the GF1; they should both be a 40mm equivalent, but I prefer the Cosina-Voigtländer for its wider angle of view and incredible sharpness – when correctly focused! (The small Panasonic lenses auto-focus of course, but Leica-M-fit lenses – obviously – can’t. You can manually focus with the Panny m4/3 lenses; but you can choose an aperture (in ‘A’ or ‘Manual’ mode) by turning a dial on the camera.)

Black-&-white results at 1600 ISO on the ’9.5′ are nicely ‘grainy’ like venerable ISO 400 Tri-X film ..but needing only a quarter of the light which Tri-X needs! This GF1 is just *great* for hi-ISO black-&-white. Low-light colour shots, though, aren’t anywhere near as vibrant (..even though ‘Vibrant’ is selectable in its menus..) compared with pictures the M9 delivers at night (or the little Panasonic LX2 used to give).

I’d previously thought “why put a Leica full-frame lens on a tiny Four Thirds sensor? ..there’s less resolution, and you lose the wide-angle facility”.

But having tried it, I see advantages:

[a] the body – and body-&-lens combination – is FAR smaller and lighter than using a Leica M.

[b] the body-&-lens combination may, in some circumstances, out-perform the Leica M8.

[c] although you can’t use a Digilux zoom on a Leica M, you can use it on the ‘M9.5′. Same goes for defunct Leica R lenses.

[d] focal length doubles, so a Leica f/2.8 90mm becomes a very compact f/2.8 180mm, giving longer “reach” – and plenty of aperture – with a small lens.

[e] no ‘cyan corners’ using a Voigtländer 12mm on the ‘M9.5′: it’s a usable 24mm instead.

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Which is which? iPhone 4, 5 megapixels, 2.3MB, ISO 125, 3.9mm, f/2.8, 1/15th.

GF1, 12 megapixels, 12.9MB RAW, 5.6MB jpeg, ISO 200, 24mm, +1 stop exposure, f/1.4, 1/80th

M9, 18 megapixels, 36.4MB RAW, ISO 200, 50mm, +1 stop exposure, f/1.4, 1/60th

The short focal length of the iPhone, and its f/2.8 aperture, means that the whole picture’s sharp. The GF1, with a Leica f/1.4 24mm, gives less depth-of-field; the M9 and f/1.4 50mm gives even less d-o-f to isolate Steve the painter from the background. (There’s a 15x difference in price – and in file size! – between the iPhone and the M9 pics ..is there a 15x difference, though, in *visible* “image quality”?)

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I’ve, at last, found a generally ‘easy-to-use’ small, compact “all-rounder” to almost match the big, heavy Leica M9. Leica’s chairman Alfred Schopf should encourage a deal with Panasonic *right now!* to offer the GF1 as a mini ‘Leica M9.5′ because it takes Leica lenses – think how much more glass they’d sell! – it gives great results, they already rebrand Pannys as Leicas, and (some of) the world wants a pocketable Leica which takes interchangeable lenses – unlike the silly fixed-lens X1. (Or else put a Leica-M bayonet on the X1 ..though that leads us into the land of “one-and-a-half-times” focal lengths, with a 50mm becoming a 75mm instead of 100mm, and the X1′s focusing just isn’t as fast as the ‘M9.5′.) The Leica ‘M9.5′ would be a compact Leica “for the rest of us”.

The GF1, er ‘Leica M9.5′, is – obviously – the digital version of the Leica CL (the “Compact Leica”): it takes M lenses, gives great quality (RAW and jpeg), doubles the range of existing M lenses – so a 135mm becomes a 270mm ..a focal length unheard of on a Leica *rangefinder* camera – and it’s just the smallest, sweetest Leica ever made. Call it the “mini-M” if you like. And make an 8mm M lens to go with it. Make the call, Herr Schopf!

David Babsky was, many years ago, Technical Editor of the UK’s best-selling ‘Practical Photography’ magazine. Years later he bought, and ran, his own 3-screen cinema. Now he teaches photography, mainly in Greece and Thailand.

Jan 012010
 

IN STOCK ALERT! This hard to find in stock MUST OWN lens for any Panasonic GF1 or Olympus E-P1/E-P2 shooter is now in stock at B&H photo for $399.95. Get one while you can! It’s a hot lens and will allow you to shoot in low light as well as give you some cool shallow DOF on your M4/3 cameras! CLICK HERE to go to the B&H page where it shows in stock as of 01/01/10 at 9am! I just ordered mine!

panny209

It also appears the Panasonic/Leica 45 F2.8 MACRO Elmarit is also in stock! If I had the cash I would buy this lens right now. It looks like a killer lens for the m4/3 system and I have seen some beautiful results from it. I hope to review one soon, but as of now, 01/01/2010 it shows IN STOCK at B&H PHOTO! CLICK HERE to check it out!

panny45

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