Sep 242014
 

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Weddings through a Leica

By Bailey Wang

I’m one of those wedding photographers with very limited experience in the old world of photography, you know using film and rangefinders. Sure I got to muck around with my old man’s dust covered Canon EOS-1, that seemed like a great idea for him at that time to have, but it wasn’t anything really of substance. So you could say I’m a relatively upcoming, though after 6 years in weddings it doesn’t so yesterday, DSLR totting photographer.

After 6 years of gun-slinging two testosterone-induced DSLR bodies weekend after weekend, the wear and tear on my temple of love became so impeding that it was high time something had to be done. For quite some time, I had one of those creative impulsive ideas of “I’m going to make things hard for myself and go hardcore manual” and so it was an opportune moment to investigate on a smaller form factor system that would be viable for weddings.

The move from the bulky world that is DSLR to a more physically-asian-friendly system started with my ventures with the Fuji X100, Pro and the more recent Sony A7, all of which for sure that their benefits and quirks. Extensive field testings I carried out in tandem with my D3s worked a dream with the beautifully light systems, and I was this close to getting jumping ship over to the A7r system. Until I was silly enough to, funny enough, bump into the StevenHuffPhoto soon-to-be online bible of reviews. Though I liked what I had with the A7r, it didn’t quite fit the bill, it’s slightly confusing button arrangements and ergonomics wasn’t as pleasing as it was visually, so when I dug deeper into the trove that is the SHP website, I kept hearing about this Leica business. Woe is me for having been so foolish – at least to the wife’s constant um verbal battering of the soon-to-come spending spree.

Many a midnight oil burnt sessions later, I hungrily sought out a local supplier (in Sydney Australia) that would let me touch and feel one of these blasted bodies (Leica M Typ 240). I’d have to say it wasn’t a particularly easy thing to do! After all, what if the foolish potential customer mishandles this “overly-priced snob camera” (as some may call it)? Thankfully one such supplier was more than happy to spend the time to unfold it’s gorgeous packaging for a on site field test, that eventuated with my renowned impulse (to the constant annoyance of the Mrs) buy. What can I say? I fell in love.

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Despite many discussions with my peers on this topic of going hard at it with the manual controls, on whether such a system would be suitable for a fast-pace photography discipline, I just had to have it. It was very much the case of once you go manual you won’t go back. I shoot manual anyway, just not manual focus. So for the next few weeks I lived and slept with the M Typ 240 and 50mm Summilux-R, she became my mistress (hey at least it was out in the open and the wife was always around).

The first wedding shot through the M was such a refreshing experience. It very much is the Apple of the camera world. Minimalist. Gorgeous. Functional. And it just works. With how technology is outpaces today’s technology, and marketing has become the guidance for product development, it is so easy to be lost in wanting the biggest and most badass specifications in one’s kit. Sure the Leica M system seems archaic with no autofocus, built-in USB, WIFI, touchscreen, 24 burst scatter gun shutter, and other plethora of marketing-tech-dribble, but what it does it does so well and for that I’m so thankful that I took the dive into the old (new) world.

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It slows things down. A heck much slower than what the DSLR can do. I love that. Bringing photography back to what it should be, to composition, great lighting and pre thought before pressing down on the shutter makes things so much more pleasing. Not that I was ever the photographer that would put the D3s on burst mode and scatter the hell out of a wedding day to come back with 3000 photographs. Certainly it was frustrating on the first wedding, not knowing exactly how slow the shutter & buffer was in comparison, and certainly things were missed that wouldn’t’ have been missed with a DSLR. But then again, I wasn’t over shooting anymore!

So how did the first wedding go with all these slow-mo things happening? Very well! Considering it was a quasi Lebanese & Portuguese mix wedding, and if any of you have been to these ethnic weddings, there’s a hell lot happening on the day. They sure know how to party it up! Given most of my couples have the Middle Eastern background splashed with the Hispanic, a big high-five for team Leica on keeping up with the pace!

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Concerns that surely the manual focus is not built for a wedding, that the rangefinder system is really for street (some say random) photography were totally dispelled. The experience of framing through a rangefinder became a beautiful perspective of documenting one of the most important milestones in life. And this is where I have come to enjoy photographing weddings through Leica.

I’m not overly concerned about all the technical mumbo jumbo of IQ, sharpness, lines, focus shifts…etc all that comes with any technology. I’m not really all that concerned about the individual performance of each spec, or rather in comparison to say what the modern world of DSLR can avail a photographer. After all I’m after emotion, after drama, not after winning awards for technical prowess. So if you were to talk to me about how each of my lenses fair for a wedding, well…buggered if I know how they technically fair. Hell looking at my photographs, you could probably point things out of whack that may not technically be awesome, but I’m not at all that interested in those aspects of photography.

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Instead, what the Leica system has allowed me to do is to bring me back to the real reasons of why I left my IT job with HP, and onwards to the world of capturing…the world of love, romance, laughter, life and connection. Without all the geeky things to swoon over (funny for a IT geek to comment on), it gives me connection with the day. Not with the camera.

One thing I will confess to geek-love though is how beautiful the Leica swirly bokeh is! I’m a wide-open shooter at heart, even in the world of DSLR, and so having access to so much gorgeous light, bokeh and softness has become as far geek-love as it gets.

So 11 weddings now since having stumped up the cash for the Leica M system, my kit on the day looks like:

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Soon to be added to this kit is a 75mm ‘lux and Canon 50mm 0.95 (damn you Steve), hopefully Fedex hauls ass so that I can have it on next weekend’s weddings. Slightly a kit freak, but each one has it’s own beauty. Oh I still have my 50mm ‘lux-r that I’ve been undecided on whether to sell off or not! The M6 is also on temptation’s list that may or may not make the cut, depending on whether I’m feeling impulsively daring enough to introduce film, but hey every other wedding photographer seems to be jumping on that bandwagon right now!

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I’m still learning about this wondrous Leica system, I’m still finding my way in composition and to bring more life into the weddings I shoot, and I’m loving it. Most importantly, my couples love it.

Bailey Wang

www: www.weddingsoulstory.com
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Sep 042014
 

PRESS RELEASE

NEW: THE SLR Magic HyperPrime CINE 10mm T2.1 and SLR Magic 77 ND 0.4-ND 1.8 filter

SLR Magic expands its micro four thirds lineup with new wide angle lens

SLRM1021_frontHong Kong, China (September 3, 2014) – SLR Magic expands the micro four thirds lens lineup with the new SLR Magic HyperPrime CINE 10mm T2.1 wide angle lens. With this latest addition, the portfolio of lenses for the micro four thirds system is now comprised of thirteen focal lengths. The product will be officially introduced during upcoming Photokina 2014 fair in Cologne.

The field of view of this new HyperPrime Lens corresponds to a 20mm lens in 35mm format and this fast wide angle of view opens up many new creative composition opportunities, particularly in the fields of interior, architectural and landscape cinematography and photography. Additionally, a fast max aperture of T2.1 makes the SLR Magic HyperPrime CINE 10mm T2.1 ideal for available-light photography.

We place our highest priority in the development on our lenses to fulfill the demands of professional cinematographers and photographers. The design and build of the SLR Magic HyperPrime CINE 10mm T2.1 is solid and reliable.

The SLR Magic 77 ND 0.4-ND 1.8 filter is a solid variable neutral density filter providing a reduction of about 1.3 to 6 stops. The 0.4 to 1.8 density creates a darkening of the entire image, allowing you to photograph with a wider aperture or slower shutter speed than normally required. The degree of density is easily controlled by rotating the front filter ring via the non-removable lever. By slowing your exposure time you are able to control depth of field and convey movement more easily. Both filter substrates are combined into one filter ring, this filter is low profile and helps to eliminate vignetting on most lenses. The front filter ring diameter is 86mm in diameter, further helping to reduce vignetting, on wide angles lenses such as the SLR Magic HyperPrime CINE 10mm T2.1 lens.

The SLR Magic HyperPrime CINE 10mm T2.1 (MSRP: $799 US) and SLR Magic 77 ND 0.4-ND 1.8 filter (MSRP: $179 US) will be available from authorized SLR Magic dealers starting end of October 2014.

The SLR Magic HyperPrime CINE 10mm T2.1 will be first presented at Photokina 2014 fair. The SLR Magic stand would be in (No. L-011, Hall 5.1) during the fairs which are to be held in Cologne from 16th to 21st of September 2014. For all those who want to visit Photokina 2014 fairs.

SLR Magic is currently looking for volunteers to test this lens at a special price. If interested:

Send an email to [email protected] with the subject “SLR Magic 10mm T2.1 volunteer”.
Include sample videos/photos or link to photo/video reviews you have done in the past.

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Technical Data

SLR Magic HyperPrime CINE 10mm T2.1

Lens Type:

Fast wide-angle lens

Compatible Cameras:

All micro four thirds mount cameras

Optical Design:

13 elements in 11 groups

Distance Settings:

Distance range: 0.20m to ∞, combined scale meter/feet

Aperture:

Manually controlled diaphragm, 11 aperture blades , Lowest value 16

Bayonet:

micro four thirds

Filter Mount:

Internal thread for 77mm filter; filter mount does not rotate.

Surface Finish:

Black anodized

Dimensions:

Length to bayonet mount:

approx. 79.45mm (approx. 3.12in)

Largest diameter:

approx. 80.00mm (approx. 3.14in)

Weight:

approx. 420g (approx. 14.8oz)

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SLR Magic 77 ND 0.4-ND 1.8

Type:

Variable density

Size:

77 mm

Filter Factor:

0.4 – 1.8 (1.3 – 6 stops)

Front Filter Thread Size:

86mm

Dec 292012
 

bothtt

Gorgeous new SLR Magic Hyperprime 35mm T0.95 and 35 T1.4 arrives for testing!

The “Noctlux” for your APS-C Mirrorless

The 35 T 0.95 Hyperprime ASP-H M mount Lens

So..you want a super fast, super sharp, super built, super bokeh 50mm equivalent cream machine for your Sony NEX, Fuji X or EOS-M camera? How about a 70mm equivalent for your Micro 4/3?  Want one for each system without having to buy three different lenses? I know I do..and such a lens has just arrived to the Huff Household. Yep,  UPS arrived yesterday with a huge box from SLR Magic and what the box held were two lenses I have been excited to review for a few weeks now. One of them is the premium 35mm APS-H Hyperprime (their premium quality line of lenses)  and I have to say that it is a BEAUTY.

It’s large, hefty, built like a solid brick and is a damn nice T0.95 lens, which in F stop land means about f/0.92! This is the 50mm equivalent 0.95 lens for APS-C mirrorless camera shooters! Almost Like having a Noctilux for your Fuji X or NEX, speed wise anyway :)

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This is an all manual lens designed for ALL of the popular mirrorless systems. You can shoot this one lens  on the NEX system, Fuji X system, EOS-M or Micro 4/3 system. How so you ask? Well, when ordering you just choose which system you want to use it with but the beauty of it all is that if you own 2 or 3 or all of these systems you only need ONE lens and it will be compatible with all of your cameras using an adapter.

This lens is actually an M mount design but not to be used on an M camera. Instead SLR Magic made it in the M mount because so many adapters are made for this mount. So this one lens can be used on almost any mirrorless system with an adapter. This was a great move IMO. For example, if I have a Fuji X camera and an OM-D and a NEX-6 or 7, this one lens can be shot on all of them. Awesome.

One thing I found while doing test shots is that even with focus peaking set to on with the NEX-6 this lens is a beast to focus correctly when shooting wide open. It has a massively razor thin level of DOF at T0.95 so your focus has to be pinpoint precise or else the images will be slightly soft at the focus point if you miss.

A quick OOC JPEG at T 0.95 and the Sony NEX-6  – remember this is wide open at T0.95 

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The particular lens that was sent to me was shipped with the Sony E Mount adapter so I will be testing it on the NEX-6 (see 1st three OOC JPEGS above) and then later the Fuji X system as soon as I get an adapter for it. It appears the Fuji adapter will not work correctly but there are some that will and SLR Magic will be shipping them with their own Fuji adapter that will work just fine.

Out of the box, this lens looks pretty bad ass but I can not speak enough about how large it is. IT IS LARGE. So if you are hoping for something small this is not your lens. If you want super quality Bokeh and image quality it just might be your lens. The packaging is solid this time around with the lens and adapter encased in solid foam so there is no chance of shipping damage (unless the UPS guys decide to play soccer with it). I am excited to review this one.

A couple of B&W JPEGS with the NEX-6 wide open at T0.95

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This 35mm T0.95 APS-H Hyperprime  lens will be selling for $1349 starting in February 2013 from SLR Magic and that is a decent price considering their 50 T0.95 for M mount was nearing the $5k mark (this was mainly due to the RF coupling and it being a full frame lens). In the same price range as this lens is the Voigtlander 35 1.4 in M mount. Many use that lens as their fast 35 on their mirrorless systems and love it but from what I have seen, this lens just may surpasses that one in Image Quality and Bokeh when used on mirrorless cameras. The only negative is that you can use the Voigtlander on an M camera as it is a full frame lens. Again, This SLR Magic is NOT full frame so while it has an M mount, it is not compatible with M cameras.

The soon to be released SLR Magic 35 T0.95 HYPERPRIME premium lens. (all product shots with Sony RX1)

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For those of you who have seen my review on the previous SLR Magic hyper prime, the 50 T0.95 for Leica M mount you may remember that I loved it and declared it to be just about equal to the Leica Noctilux f0.95 in image quality (in real world use) and I preferred the Bokeh of the SLR Magic. The construction of the Leica Noctilux is better (as is the resale value) but for all out IQ the HyperPrime was amazing. I never had one issue with it on my Leica M9-P or the Monochrom. It was large and heavy but it packed some serious glass. Unfortunately, as far as I know this lens is no longer shipping in the USA (the 50 T0.95) so if you managed to snag one, you have a rare lens in your collection :)

This new 35 T/0.95 seems to have rock solid construction and design, is much less expensive with maybe even better build quality and is a T0.95 35mm which will be like a T0.95 50mm on APS-C mirror-less cameras. Finally a fast and exotic 50mm for your APS-C. BUT, can it deliver the goods? I am not sure yet as I just got it so I will be shooting it in Vegas next week to give it a workout.

I will not know anything until I thoroughly use it but from the looks and feel it is impressive. This lens will come in at $1349 and will be available from SLR Magic starting February 2013. They are also offering $100 off for early buyers so keep an eye out here for info.

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The SLR Magic 35 T1.4 for APS-C

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SLR Magic also sent me their new 35 T1.4 lens to test out on the Fuji X-E1 and this lens is coming in at only $349. It is a budget lens but it certainly does not look or feel like one. This lens is also available for all other mirrorless systems but will come in whatever mount you order it in. The one that I was sent is for Fuji X and for a $349 lens this is one hell of a well built lens. Metal construction with the weight of a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH. This is no cheap toy lens in the construction department and the packaging is just as nice as the Hyperprime lens.

Andrew from SLR Magic told me they have tweaked their packaging and it shows.

This lens is not up to par with the T0.95 Hyperprime in the IQ department but it is not designed to be. This $349 lens is built for Bokeh it seems as it delivers a rich and creamy out of focus rendering with bit of softness to the images when shot at 1.4 wide open. The lens seems to sharpen up by 2.8 but even wide open will give you a soft etheral look.

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What is nice about this lens is the build and the fact that you can order it NOW in any mount you want. This is what SLR Magic told me about the availability of this lens:

“The 35mm T1.4 is available now. We have it for X mount, E mount, EF-M mount, and mFT mount. It is not up on our website or eBay yet but people can already order by emailing us at [email protected] to get it before it is up on our website. We have already sold a bunch for the mFT version”.

So you can order  this lens now if you desire and what is even better is that if you bought one of their older 35 1.7 toy lenses you can trade it in for a $90 credit towards this new lens (which is a much nicer lens than the toy lens in build and IQ). Also, if you order by Feb 2013 you can take $70 off of the price:

“We have two programs

A) Owners of the SLR Magic 35mm f/1.7 can ship their lens back to Hong Kong for trade-in at $90 value to upgrade.

B) If bought by Feb 2012 from us we have a $70 promotional rebate program.”

So if you buy this lens by Feb 2013 it will come in at only $279. Great buy for any mirrorless camera system if you want great Bokeh and a unique quality. This lens is not a pin sharp lens when used at 1.4 or f/2. It sharpens up by F2.8. I will be reviewing this lens as well with the Fuji X-E1 so stay tuned!

A couple of OOC JPEGS to show Bokeh Quality and expected sharpness at 1.4

“Best Beer in the world Part 2″

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“Goodbyes”

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 Remember that this is an all manual lens so you will have to manually focus and manually set Aperture on the lens barrel. Much like using a Leica M lens on your mirrorless camera. Both of these new lenses also have clickless aperture rings as they are “Cine” lenses which happen to be great for videos as well.

So if you want to order this 35 T 1.4 lens for your system you can e-mail SLR Magic for details at [email protected]. My full reviews will be coming soon on both of these.

 

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Jun 112012
 

My New Glass Paintbrush – The SLR Magic 50 f/0.85 for Sony NEX – By Keith Lickteig • www.ScutFish.com

I’ve recently been spending a lot more time in Hong Kong where I have no plane to fly, no hangar to maintain, no giant smoker to sacrifice many tasty chickens upon. There’s few house chores, no gardening, no Jeep to crush shopping carts and sea shells with. I can work, do paper work, make calls, cry about money, but concentrating on nothing but work has truly made Jack a very dull boy. It’s time for a few healthy new hobbies.

What is there to do? It’s another day in Hong Kong with my beautiful Donna who flies me around the globe almost weekly. This alone is incredible. There’s so much to see and share with my family and friends back in the US and UK but the iPhone being my favorite camera doesn’t always cut it. So why not explore proper photography? Hong Kong must be the capital of camera ownership and sales. You can’t walk a minute in any public space without seeing a camera, a camera ad, a camera shop, being in someone else’s photo, or seeing my favorite, the ubiquitous “no photo” sign. The “no photo” sign is everywhere in Hong Kong and China. Heaven forbid someone should take a photo and steal a shops ideas of what are likely pirated goods.

Donna has always been a bit of a photography buff. By that I don’t mean she likes photography in the nude (a man can dream can’t he). Just that she enjoys old cameras and taking pictures, especially with film or mildly unusual formats. She’s helped fund a minute portion of the Impossible Projects instant film redevelopment and did they ever get the marketing name right on that one. It truly is just about “impossible”. She has a few fancy DSLRs with some type of fat fancy lenses that people on the street seem to ‘ooh and ah’ over, but her favorite digital is a small Ricoh point-and-shoot that has a lovely native square format. Of course I mentioned her antique Polaroid which I thought was going to be the coolest thing since, well, the last time I saw a real instant Polaroid in 1979. The black-and-white films currently available give mildly usable results when they don’t get stuck in the cartridge, but the color film is just pure crap. It’s my fault for getting her started on that one. I should have listened to the companies most honest marketing as it was never sold as the “Works Perfect Project”.

One of Donna’s latest acquisition is another giant anvil of a camera made by Fuji that uses near full format film of some sort, 6×6 maybe or something of the nature. Perhaps it is 120mm film judging by the pile of film rolls next to me all with the number 120 plastered on the canisters. Although a very nice camera that takes incredible photos, it’s not what I would say is a great journeying machine. It actually draws more attention than the average DSLR with a monster telephoto cannon of a lens. Whenever she takes it out for a photo people turn and look at her as it seems she’s replaced her head with a giant brick shaped camera. Really, it’s that big … the camera. She’s also begun playing with a few very old Rolleiflex twin lens cameras but we have no results from these as yet. I thought they would make really interesting bookends and had no idea anyone would bother using them. As it turns out the Rolleiflex’s are worth a pretty penny too. I’d have never guessed it by the number of them I see in the dusty old shops around town.

So now it’s my turn to get into the photo game. It’s something Donna and I can participate in together, and it will give me a much-needed mental escape from work. I read a good bit on the web and develop an interest in the smaller interchangeable lens cameras that seem to be really fueling a portion of the market. As we travel an insane amount I want to travel light. I want to be able to use little more than an iPad to edit and publish and would enjoy a camera that weighed-in a little less than Donnas Hubble like instruments (which was 24,000 lbs before it left earth). In the following days while Donna and I are on walkabout we step into a few shops and have a look at the makes and models available. Of all the incredible offerings we come across a little Sony number that seems to have really made quite a “Huff” on the web. It could hardly be any smaller, it supports assorted lenses, and oddly has the same sensor as one of Donna’s monster DSLRs. After a bit of Cantonese debate and haggling Donna hands over her debit card and it’s ours. Notice I said “her” debit card. Women’s liberation is marvelous gentlemen. I highly recommend we sit back and enjoy!

A few days go by with the new little camera and I’m enjoying taking photos while doing my best to not use the talented and more accurate automated modes. However, as hard as I try it’s just not all that exciting. The kit lenses perform very well and make it incredibly easy to capture what was in front of me, but essentially that is all they do, capture what I had no problem remembering in the first place. It quickly becomes time to step it up. It is after all an interchangeable lens machine, there must be options. Time to try out something else.

A quick comment regarding Sony menus (or any camera make for that matter) as I’ve read such horrible things about them. I’m guessing there are only so many buttons and options that can be fit into one square inch. Upon spending a mere six minutes with the cameras user manual I was able to place eight options of my choosing at my finger tips, with all now being less than two “clicks” away. Amazing. I didn’t have to rely on what a Sony engineer deemed to be the best workflow for me, I could choose my own. It was easy and no fuss at all, with no more need to click-through lists of menu options.

Off we go back to the shops to search out a lens that’s more interesting for the little cam. There aren’t many native options until we come across a Zeiss that was very well reviewed and apparently quite “fast”, whatever that meant. Apparently it wasn’t fast enough to get away so we took it home, plugged it in, and headed off to Thailand the very day. Why not?

The Zeiss performed remarkably well. The Zeiss focus was quite fast and the results were for the most part quite bright, colorful, and perfect. Almost too perfect. Perfect to the point of being clinical. I’ve had enough of clinics and “clinical” for one lifetime so upon returning to Hong Kong Donna and I visited more shops and started trying out filters, polarizers, super quasar numerator electron fluctuations among other devices. Again the results improved markedly and now every single pixel was in its exact and proper place, dimension, and hue. All with almost no effort on my part. Lovely, except of all the great works of art I’ve been so fortunate to behold, not one do I ever remember at a pixel level. Donna and I once climbed to the upper rotunda of the Basilica of St. Peters where I didn’t use just my eyes. Trembling, I put my hand against the gorgeous mosaic walls as I walked along and felt more than six-hundred years of history, passion, enlightenment, and sacrifice flown beneath my finger tips. To this day I cannot believe we were given access to such places. Amazingly we had little choice but to touch the mosaics as to step more than a few feet away would have us perched on a ledge with almost 300 feet between our feet and the floor below. It’s was an amazing experience. Grazie Papa!

In order to share my travel photos and journal with friends and family, and being one of a handful of people on the planet not using Facebook, I began studying WordPress and learned how to build a scratch website. After about a week I could load photos into my iPhone and iPad, edit, and publish to my newly created site without ever touching a desktop. Perfect, now I never have to leave my hammock.

As much fun as I was having with my new camera and lenses, there was still much missing. I was able to frame and capture moments to share beautifully, but without a little editing they lacked punch, life, or any character at all. There are times when I enjoy playing with a photo, and other times where I feel it’s important for the moment to speak for itself. No editing, no in camera processing. Just available light, a subject, and the moment. I had no idea how as a novice I could learn to capture such magic in a photo but articles across the web spoke of such things being possible.

Enter the “magic”. Although here in Hong Kong they say “Enter the Dragon”. I had been browsing the web more than ever before, reading about photography, available kit, techniques, reviews and such. Heaven knows there’s nothing worth while on television and I haven’t watched any form of televised news media in more than eight years (hence my great smile and cheerful demeanor). I began discovering images and write-ups of vintage lenses being adapted to smaller cameras like the Sony I’ve been studying. However, I was certain there was no way I’d get positive results from a fully manual lens with my novice skill level. I’m only a few weeks into this. The concept kept eating at me and I continued scouring the web for more information.

While back at work in the States I read a very “Huffed” up article about a company from Hong Kong of all places making native Sony mount lenses that seemed oddly interesting. The lenses were fully manual, very “fast” (that word again), and the demonstrated photos looked really interesting. Over the past weeks Donna and I had become really good at shopping for new camera kit and I knew there wasn’t a lens yet that was “fast” enough to out run me. Immediately upon returning to Hong Kong Donna and I headed out to find the sorcerers shop that made this magical lens. Of course after a hot shower and long nap, Orlando to Hong Kong is a long 24 hours in a seat.

Not long after beginning our search, Donna and I had discovered a handful of shops that carried or could source the lens. (I told you we are really good at the shopping part.) Wandering further we discovered one of the smallest shops in the entire arcade where there they sat, many different well sampled models of the much “Huffed” SLR Magic lenses. After a bit of Canton small talk with the shop owner and many “oohs and ah’s” over his beautiful baby (a real baby not the lens) I was ready to snap on SLR Magic and give it a whirl. I stepped into the hall, switched the cam to on, opened the aperture thingy (making the hole bigger), twisted the focus ring and finally began to grin. “This is absolutely amazing” is all I was thinking. I pointed at any and every thing playing with the dials while letting a kaleidoscope of imagery appear before my eyes. This went on for nearly ten minutes before Donna stepped into the hall and reminded me there was a button on the upper part of the device I was holding that when pressed would cause the images to be captured for later viewing. “Oh, that’s right” I exclaimed rather excitedly. I was having too much fun discovering aperture to remember anything else. I played around for many more minutes and checked out the other SLR Magic offerings. Then Donna asked me, “well honey, are you going to get it?” to which I replied, “Captain Donna (it sometimes helps if I call her captain), make it so!” And yet another lens came home to play.

The next day we of course departed for another adventure with new photo kit in tow. Well, Donna’s kit was in tow, mine easily fit in my shoulder bag. We headed out that night snapping away. The new SLR Magic lens was so cool, and amazing, and really just too much fun to put down. Even for a complete novice as myself there was so much to enjoy. Rather quickly I stopped thinking of it as a mere lens but more of a giant wet paintbrush. The effects, colors, drama one could create was endless. Do I want to capture a single subject, if so, just spin the dial. Do I want the world to appear, spin the other way. Make something glow, turn it a little more. Or how about miss the moment and shot all together in a giant swirling blur, way too easy. Walking down a very dimly lit street I eventually discovered this little dragon could see in the dark, at low ISO, and fast shutter speeds. This was the moment I finally comprehended what a fast lens was, while all this time I had thought I was so young and spritely. What was there not to love about this little lens. I recalled an article I read from a “Rockwell” engineer or photographer. He lambasted the SLR Magic company for even thinking of developing such a lens. According to the article, the author had never even laid his hands on the product, met the company founder or development team, yet found little to like about the company or product. Now that sounds like a magical review and talent to boot. Think of the money saved by reviewing without ever touching. What an amazing business plan.

With camera and lens in hand, I soon began to chat with other photographers on the street that would curiously check out my new kit as both my camera body and lenses were not easy to find on shop shelves at the time. l even became bold enough to take my gear into camera shops along my way and show it off to shop owners and their most curious customers. I’d let their customers try it out and watch them grin just as I did. Then I’d loudly say “talk to Mr. Lee (reading off the shop keeps name badge as if we were old friends), he can find you one I’m certain”. Meanwhile the shop manager hurriedly began researching on his smart phone. Salesmen are fun to play with. Especially in China.

Sitting in a cafe looking at the evenings photos I was questioned by a fella named Gary Tyson who claimed to know a thing or two about how cameras worked. He also mentioned he too was enjoying the Leica version of the same lens which is really not the same at all. The M-mount SLR Magic is a whole new barrel of a beast. Gary shared some of his remarkable photos and commented that there was a bit of “controversy” surrounding the SLR Magic lenses and brand. Once again I thought back to that “Rockwell” fella and so many forum comments from people bashing products that they had never seen, touched, explored, or even attempted to understand. Often only due to product price. It is then that I realized many “forums” can be as bad as news media outlets and not nearly as valuable as parting ones hind quarters from the couch, while getting out and exploring for oneself.

After two months with my SLR Magic I have thoroughly enjoyed every challenging minute with the lens. I don’t seem to care if the company stole the concept from a Happy Meal, painted it pink, and marked it up 500%. The fact is, whatever they did, they built it, they built it well, and made it available for me to purchase, saving me the trouble of building my own. It fits my camera (amazingly as a native lens), it functions beautifully for my tastes and needs, and I thoroughly enjoy the challenge and results. And if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to buy it. If it was too expensive I could have easily chose something else. Fortunately I don’t live in a one size, one price fits all world. If I wasn’t happy with the available product I’m free to search out other offerings. Free markets are amazing. What’s more amazing is how fast products like this are selling in Asia. High-end products of all genres are selling like hot cakes. I’ve recently watched people buy watches that were more than $60,000 usd. Things in these price ranges are flying out of shop doors. To many in this part of the world a $5000 camera body or even a $10000 lens is a mere toy. Something just to have because someone said it was good or “the best”. It’s likely it will rarely be used if ever to the degree of its design. I see it in aviation all the time. People spending hundreds of thousands on aircraft and sometimes millions just to have a spare or say they have “one of those” too. It’s very interesting to witness what motivates different people to spend.

To me texture and grain in a photograph are character. They are the flavor and smell of one-dimensional world.

So now I have a few new paintbrushes to choose from, and I’ve got an entire planet before me to explore along with my great partner in crime. Donna and I are having way too much fun searching out places to shoot. I recently spent more than five hours climbing the back halls, stairwells, and alleyways of one Hong Kong’s most notorious buildings. I observed all facets of life, vice, and underground activities. I met drug dealers, tailors, cooks, traders, you name it. I did my best to capture photos of it all with less than a handful being anything exciting or even remotely sharable. All poor photos due strictly to my lack of skill. The best part is that bodged photos no longer bother me. I’ll happily pack up my iPad, all my new paintbrushes, and head out for another adventure. Each time I try I learn a little more and my technique improves. I get better at choosing my settings, learn to focus faster, and are really learning how to work an area to compose the best shot while not disturbing my subjects. When I get a great shot it really makes me smile and I want to share the moment with my friends. When I don’t, I’m happy to have had the chance.

So where to go next? We never really know. Today we are in Japan and I’m certain our next destination will be as equally exciting. Maybe there will be something worth photographing, or maybe we’ll find one of those stunning spots better quietly enjoyed and remembered within the greatest canvas one has. Wherever Donna and go I know we’ll make the most of it. But perhaps a little more shopping first. I heard something about some “Voigtlander” people I really must explore.

Manual lenses like those from SLR Magic and Voigtlander are turning out to be a real treat for me personally. I enjoy how they help me get more involved with the moment I’m trying to capture. They are in no way easy lenses for a novice to use but that’s all part of the fun and enjoyment of the equipment. Day or night the wide aperture coupled with the appropriate filters and patience makes for great adventure.

Above my bright yellow airplane looked equally interesting in black and white and the old Buick below turned out much too sharp so I had to muck it up a bit. Both taken with the SLR Magic in very strong daylight.

Wide open the SLR Magic delivers great results in very dim light. Days after picking up the lens, George was more than happy to pose quietly for my practice as we waited for our whiskeys to come up to the perfect sipping temperature. Further below Trish tries to hide her cute, tiny, very round cheeks from a shot. The picture here is actually life-size, she’s super cute and tiny.

Although the new paintbrushes I have are more than capable of capturing beautifully clean photographs, it’s still a lot of fun to mess around with the results on iPad with a few editing apps.

Once again practicing wide open is a lot of fun. If I had only remembered that thing called ISO taking this photo would have been so much easier. By raising it I could have had a much cleaner shot without the motion blur and didn’t even recall the option until hours later. It’s of no worry, I’ll just have to head back to Dubai and get a few more shots of my friend Dave.

Shooting through grease splattered glass around the corpses of many fried fowl was a bit of a challenge. But patience gave me interesting results in a great part of town.

I could have spent hours taking photos in this tiny little work shop. It’s located on one of the lower floors of one of Hong Kong’s less than desirable buildings. If you didn’t know it was there you’d never believe it existed. I’m told that most of their customers don’t want to physically visit their shop, but I personally love it. It has great character. Past the double security doors in a room a room only a few meters long and wide, they are turning out some of the highest quality and renowned custom jewelry in the region. The shop has been here since the 1960s I’m guessing and the shop owner was more than happy to let me take photos of the jewelers working away at their work benches. After all, I’m a very good customer. Women’s liberation seems to be a two-way street … Damn.

May 222012
 

SLR Magic Raises the price of the T0.95 Hyperprime Leica mount to $4995

Due to lens productions costs industry wide, SLR Magic has just raised the price of their 50mm T0.95 Hyperprime lens to $4995. I asked Andrew, head honcho over at SLR Magic why this was and he stated it was all due to cost of materials going up. Sony told me this as well as Leica so it is a true statement. SLR Magic sold out of the initial pre-order batch of this lens and there is now a 7-9 month wait for one after you order. This lens is amazing but if you order one, be sure that your camera is calibrated perfectly, just as you would need with a Noctilux. When your body is spot on, this lens is razor-sharp at all apertures. You can see my review HERE as well as some shots with this lens on an M6 HERE. I also used it with the Leica Monochrom HERE.

This lens is razor sharp, even wide open (which equates to f/0.92) – shot on Leica Monochrom

You can order this lens for Leica mount only and it comes in two versions. One that is RF coupled at $4995 (this allows you to focus using the rangefinder) and one that is not RF coupled (for use with adapters on NEX, Micro 4/3, etc). The price of the NON RF version is $2995. They do sell a Hyperprime for Sony NEX and Micro 4/3 but this is a totally different lens and not in the same league as the Leica M version.

May 082012
 

Another take on the Fuji X-Pro 1

By Ashwin Rao – See his blog HERE

From Steve: Most of you have seen my review on the X-Pro 1. It was a positive review and I enjoyed the camera but ultimately it was not for me do to the slow AF in lower light (which caused me to miss MANY shots when street shooting). I felt the IQ of the X-Pro 1 was astounding though, and I had to send it back to Fuji before I was able to even try processing a RAW file or even use a Leica adapter with Leica glass. No worries though! Ashwin has been shooting his X-Pro 1 and he wrote up a nice article on the camera as a 2nd take. His photos are AMAZING with this camera so read and enjoy! As you read this I am on my way to Berlin for the May 10th Leica event, so will post when I arrive!  – Steve

Hi, everyone. It’s been a while since I shared here, as I have been busy trying out new gear and straying away this time from the M system, which has and will continue to be my primary camera system as the only true production digital rangefinder available today…

That being said, this year has seen the development of some revolutionary and evolutionary cameras, including the NEX-5N, NEX-7, D800E, and the OM-D EM-5. May’s Leica announcement brings even more interesting cameras into the fold. To me, the most interesting camera of the batch, the one that caught my eye, spirit, and creative muse, has been the Fuji XPro-1. As Steve has implied in his reviews of the camera and comparisons, it is a flawed camera….the flaws are inherent to the XPro-1’s slow autofocus, likely due in part to it’s fly-by-wire AF system. It has shutter lag, and it’s optical viewfinder is quirky and inaccurate. But at the end of the day, it’s output is the closest to the Leica M9 as any camera that I have ever tried. Add that to an adequate (yet slightly underwhelming) EVF, and robust, lightweight build, and it becomes something very unique.

I have been asked a few times on various forums, about why I would consider duplicating the M9 system with the XPro-1. Well, the truth of the matter is that I don’t feel that the duplication is complete. There’s overlap, and for the time being, room for both systems in my kit. Here are a few reasons why.

While the Fuji XPro-1’s design and form factor are an intentional duplication of present and past rangefinders, it is in fact not a rangefinder at all, but a camera equipped by autofocus. It’s optical viewfinder comes close to the Contax G sytem in terms of it’s method of detecting focus and framing, and there are adjustable views and frames for each lens. I am personally very interested to see how Fuji’s hybrid viewfinder evolves, but this, in and of itself, distinguishes it rather dramatically from Leica’s offerings.

The second major pro, for my life, is something I call “the Hand-off factor.” The fact that I can hand this camera to a friend to take a snap, compared to the M9, which has a far larger learning curve for even quick implementation, and this is a huge factor for social gatherings. With the M9, I am inevitably (and often by choice) behind the lens and camera, and with the XPro-1, I find myself handing the camera off more. I thus have more pics of myself using this camera.

Ultimately, the IQ of the XPro-1 is what keeps me coming back for me. Fuji’s X-Trans sensor simply friggin’ Rocks. It’s not perfect. Highlights can be blown at times. It’s wonderful high ISO capacities are hampered by the camera’s sluggish low light autofocus, making this an immature camera for low light shooting. It’ll get there, I hope, but the XPro-1’s AF is quite a limitation to its overall full spectrum use at this time.

One other reason that the camera excites me is due to its future. Fuji has committed many resources to this system and the X100, and I suspect that they will support the system well. The X100 has been vastly improved from it’s initial implementation, thanks to Fuji’s technical support, and I very much hope that Fuji will do the same here.

Finally, the other major reason that I plan to hold on to the XPro1, is the future of the system. With 28-70 and 70-200 mm zooms planned for later this year and next, there are some very interesting lens options coming to this system. I’d also love to see the optics of the X100 ported to ths XPro-1, and I suspect that a 35 mm equiv lens will be here soon enough…Personally, I’d love to see Fuji implement a step zoom feature on it’s zoom lenses, so that optical viewfinders may still be used (Fuji, are you listening?)

Pros and cons, you ask? What comes next are my current expository thoughts on the camera:

Pros for the XPro-1

1. Layout and handling: great, just like the M: I love the RF form factor, and while the XPro-1 isn’t really a rangefinder, it feels like one in hand and inspires me in much the same ways. That does mean something in terms of my creativity. It’s also a smallish system, so it works well not to startle people (helps that it’s all black, which I love)

2. ISO: The XPro-1 kicks the pants off the M9 in this department. I am waiting for RAW support, but the JPEG engine is great

3. Out of camera JPEG’s: This is one camera where I have been thrilled with JPEG output. While I look forward to RAW, and shooting JPEG’s without hesitation using standard Fuji profiling

4.Image qaulity: Close to the M9 in most, if not all respects. Fuji really must be applauded for their X-Trans sensor. It needs to find its way into more cameras, period. M lenses have a bit more character than the Fujinon counterparts, but that’s not to take anything away from the Fuji. The Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph is a favorite lens, and the 35 Fujinon comes close, in terms of sharpness and OOF creaminess. The 35 mm native focal length adds some distortion, but you get closer focusing.

5. Hand off factor: Much better than the M9. The XPro-1 can be handed to a novice, and a sharp, focused image will result. Someone on the interwebs said it well that for the average point and shooter who takes on the XPro-1, their images will be elevated to art just by the mere fact that the Fuji lenses are remarkable, and the AF, once locked, takes great crisp images…

6. AF accuracy once locked. The camera, once it locks focus, is amazing….thus, AF accuracy is near perfect, though AF implementation is sluggish

Cons

1. Cropped sensor: Lose some depth of field, but in real life, as long as you make the focal length adjustment (18=28, 35=50, 60 = 90), it’s no biggie, not a deal breaker.

2. Shutter lag: Gosh, I wish Fuji fixed this…not sure if it’s possible, but I’d rather see and snap rather than see, wait a few precious milliseconds, and then snap. The pause in image acquisition is due in part to slow AF and part to shutter lag, and Fuji needs to iron this out before carrying on with other system improvements.

3. SLOW AF: TO me, the X-Pro-1’s focus speed, particularly with the 35 mm lens, improved with it’s “anti-chatter” firmware, but compared to the competition (even the middling NEX series AF), the Fuji is slow to focus. It’s better in daylight, but can be horrendous in mixed low light….If Fuji could do one thing for the camera, it’s improve AF. Some have argued that in isolation, the XPro-1’s AF is fast. Others have argued that they can focus the XPro-1 far faster than they could manually focus an M9. Well, given 6 years or regular practice with the M9, I must say that the M9’s shutter lag (minimal) and my manual focus capabilities FAR outshine the XPro-1, and I’m trying not to be cocky. If they could do 2 things, it would be to improve autofocus and shutter lag.

4. Inaccurate frame lines,/optical viewfinder. The Fuji’s optical viewfinder is a great idea…in theory. The merits of the OVF have been discussed in detail, and there’s no reason to get into the details here, other than to say, in concept, that offering multiple optical VF’s for various focal lengths, is a great idea. But in its current implementation, this system is flawed, and Fuji should/could fix it. When using the XPro-1’s optical viewfinder, frame lines are quite inaccurate when subjects are close.. this leads to 2 issues. When I use the OVF, I have regularly gotten inadvertently cropped images (tops of heads chopped off and the like) and AF has misfired. What the photographer expects to see via the framelines and focus confirmation presented is not what the photographer always gets. Thus, the camera may be chosing the wrong AF point, due to frameline inaccuracy. I find the OVF to be inaccurate for close up subjects, and thus I avoid using it in those circumstances.

5. EVF ‘s slow refresh rate. This may be an improvement that has to occurin the future. The current EVF’s refresh rate is slow. What this means is that with fast-moving objects viewed viat the EVF’s, there’s choppiness and motion artifacts present. The NEX is far better with its EVF…this is readily noticeable at night, where the Fuji’s lag really shows up.

6. Adaptability with M and other lenses. The EVF has no focus peaking, and the 10x magnification is actually too large to maintain framing when focusing and composing images via the EVF

7. Red channel: The red channel can blow out at times, as it is overly sensitive. I have seen similar behavior, albeit worse, with the Pentax K5, but it’s present here at times.

XPro-1 and 35 mm lens, blowing out the reds and magentas

Special Section: A couple of captures with the SLR Magic 50 mm f/0.95 Hyperprime lens.

Overall, this revolutionary lens that’s just now becoming available, works very well on the XPro-1, who’s EVF, compled with the lens’ miniscule DOF, makes for a lovely camera in practical and low light use. Here are a few examples, but more to come later.

Conclusion

You may say that I have presented quite a few cons to go with my pros regarding the XPro-1, and you’d be right….Overall, I am sticking with the Fuji over the OM-D (and even the NEX-7) due to the file quality that this camera and its lenses. I continue to use and enjoy the NEX-7, but it feels more like a consumer electronics gadget to me than a true camera. There’s something that flows in the XPro-1’s veins (i.e. its design) that really sings to me. I can live with the occasional quirks given that its IQ is something to write home about. It’s as close to the Leica M system as I have ever seen. Sure, it forces a new way of shooting to cope with its quirks, but if Fuji’s history of support is anything to write about, they will keep tweaking the XPRo-1 until it’s great, or at least, better. Further, the XPro-1’s body is not M9 priced, and may thus be somewhat easier to replace/upgrade without burning a hole in the wallet and/or the stomach….with time, and popularity, the system will evolve to provide the sensor and lenses with a better body to provide the system more maturity…that’s my hope and suspicion, at least….

Overall, you may say that this is the picture that summarizes my overall feelings of the Fuji XPro-1

 

Pro

Image Quality (a revelation, really)

Low light ISO capability (another revelation, really good)

Build (light, especially the lenses) but robust. Grip adds weight and makes the camera feel more like a Leica M

Lenses (35 mm and 60 mm are stunning, 18 is solid and focuses faster)

Button & Dial Layout and menu access

Hand-off factor

Con

Low light autofocus performance

Shutter lag

Occasional AF inconsistency, more so with optical viewfinder

Inaccurate optical viewfinder frame lines

EVF refresh rate is slow

Manual focus implementation lags FAR behind NEX series camera, due to lack of focus peaking and slower refresh rates

Learning curve: one has to re-learn to shoot in a way that the camera can handle

 

Should be improvable via firmware

AF performance and accuracy with optical viewfinder

DNG RAW file option

Menu items don’t all reset with each firmware upgrade (even lenses)

 

Must be improved in future iterations of the camera

Higher resolution EVF with faster refresh rate

Lenses that use methods other than fly by wire

Lenses or body with image stabilization

Sample Images

Apr 132012
 

Sony NEX-7 with the SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 T0.95 and other ramblings…

I recently updated my rolling  review of the SLR Magic “Hyperprime” 50mm T0.95 lens, which is their statement Leica mount lens. I Just added a few images shot with it on the Sony NEX-7 and have to say it did great. You can see my full review of this lens, which again is a Leica mount lens, HERE.  FYI, SLR Magic sold out of their initial order run after just a couple of hours of being made available for order a few weeks ago. Not sure when they will be accepting more orders but do know that many are really excited to get their hands on one soon. The images embedded in this article were all shot with the NEX-7 and the SLR Magic lens. 

Bonding with your camera

It has been a while since my NEX-7 review. In fact, it seems like it has been a really long time and in fact it was about half a year ago already that I wrote about this new Sony flagship from their NEX series of cameras. Now that I have my own NEX-7 and have been using it more and more for my personal photography and family snaps I can say that I am really enjoying this camera more and more. That is saying a lot because remember, it is hard for a guy like me to stick with one particular camera due to the fact that it is my job to try out all of the new stuff!

The only camera that has always stood the test of time with me has been my Leica quite simply because I never found anything else I enjoyed shooting with more. But that doesn’t mean I do not enjoy shooting with other cameras, because I most certainly do. But I feel it has taken months to really get to know my NEX-7 like I know my M9. Not because it is so difficult to get to know, but because I really just started getting serious with it a few weeks ago. These days I have been shooting it more than my Leica M9 and I admit, for me, I have been preferring it to the Fuji X-Pro 1 as well mainly due to the fact that when I shoot with the NEX, I do not have the quirks I find with the Fuji but damn, I so love the Fuji IQ and look. The NEX-7 is not perfect but I have to say it makes a wonderful companion to the M9 and it is especially good with Leica lenses.

These days it seems to be about the latest and greatest for many shooters and gear heads. For others, they are happy to stick with the older ‘classics” and this is good as they can often times get BETTER results because they KNOW their cameras well. I am preparing an article on this subject because I find it so important to really get to know your camera. If you bond and know your camera as well as you know yourself, then your images can go to a whole new level of great. I feel this “bond” with my Leica M and this is the camera I pull out when it is time for me to get serious, simply because I KNOW THE M well. The same can be said for anyone, doesn’t have to be a Leica though. That is just my camera of choice. My #1 pick. Anyone can easily bond with whatever camera they really enjoy.

With so many mirrorless cameras coming out at a blistering pace I have narrowed down my faves to what you see on the “My Gear” page but there are always new cameras on the horizon so if a camera sticks around the Huff household for longer than 3 months that is pretty impressive :)

Choose your digital film stock

The fact remains, even in todays digital world, that a camera and lens is simply a box that gathers light. Instead of that light hitting a frame of film, it now hits a digital sensors. Most digital sensors today are good but all are different and when shooting different cameras it is almost like shooting different film stock. For example, Fuji cameras will deliver a different look due to their color signature and tonality. Sony is the same way as is Leica, Canon, Olympus, and others. So choosing a camera today can almost be like choosing a film stock in the past. Sort of. This is true when you shoot JPEG as the camera will process the colors, the contrast, the sharpness and any effects you choose. Shoot RAW and you will be controlling this using the software you prefer. Even with that said, there are differences in sensors and cameras even when using RAW files.

The way the camera renders a scene…

The Sony NEX-7 is sort of neutral in my opinion. Fuji gives us nice dynamic range and very bold colors. Canon gives us softer more pastel like colors. Nikon goes for rich lifelike colors and detail and Olympus has a signature many love with it’s great rendering of blues and reds. Leica gives us the much sought after “Leica Look” (which yes, does indeed exist) and colors but most of that is down to the lens and full frame sensor of the M9. After years of shooting these brands I can usually see an image and get a feel of what camera shot what image. Not all of the time, but most of the time.

But in this article I am talking about the NEX-7, which is a great “all around use” kind of camera – great reds that at times can get a little too bold if you are not careful, but nice natural yellows and greens and great depth when using a good lens. It is true what you hear, that lenses are the heart of any camera system. Once you pick your “film stock”, which is your brand and type of camera with the sensor you desire, you need a great lens to go with it. Attaching cheap kit zooms will give you decent results but attaching great glass will give you much better results. This is why Leica has the reputation it has these days. It’s not the camera bodies as much as the amazing glass they produce. I can safely say that todays Leica lenses are the best lenses made in the world. Period. If someone says otherwise they are either bitter at Leica prices, jealous, or has never seriously tried a Leica M lens. My Leica photos have always stood out more than others it seems and I would not be saying so if I did not believe this.

Now I am not here saying that the Leica M9 is the best camera ever made as it has been filled with flaws, cracked sensor glass, SD card issues, focus issues and the higher ISO of the M9 is not that great by todays standards. I love the usability of the M9 but at times it has been frustrating so taking breaks from it and shooting these smaller mirror less cameras has been great fun for me, and at times, eye-opening. I LOVE and ADORE my M but these days there are many great alternatives that get you in the same ballpark for much less cash outlay. None will feel like a Leica or give you the RF experience though.

Back to the NEX

I was out and about shooting the NEX-7 with an all new Leica to NEX adapter made by SLR Magic and was very happy with the results, even in the full ugly and harsh AZ sun (which is horrendous for photographers). Keep an eye here for news on this adapter because it is very unique. It is an adapter that you can twist and make the minimum focus distance limitations of the M lenses disappear! Yep,  you can focus super close now with your M lenses on the NEX system, so this is really cool. The adapter is not ready for sale just yet but seems to work very well though I did have a teeny bit of play when mounting my 35 Lux ASPH II and Hyperprime. The only adapter I have found that has no play at all is the $250 Novoflex adapter which is super pricey but rock solid.

I have been told this new adapter from SLR Magic is almost ready to be released so when it is I will post about it and show you how it works, and how to get one. The fact that you will have the ability to focus super close is pretty cool. As for the Hyperprime, I continued to be impressed with it and I believe it is one of the coolest lenses you can get for your Leica M. It looks damn good on the Sony as well.

On the NEX-7 and super close focusing using the all new adapter from SLR Magic.

So I guess what I am saying here is that I am still digging the NEX-7. I am NOT happy about the video capabilities anymore though as my camera has been overheating after a few minutes of constant video shooting, at which time the camera just shuts down. Other than that I have had no operation issues whatsoever. Great design, great body, great versatility and the ability to shoot Leica glass with focus peaking is fantastic. I have been enjoying the EVF quite a bit as well as the tiltable LCD. While its image quality and rendering is quite a bit different from the Fuji X-Pro 1 it is a great solid camera that one could easily bond with. :)

You can buy the NEX-7 kit here at Amazon.

Mar 122012
 

Shooting wide open in the sunlight with fast glass

So you went out and bought that Leica Noctilux ASPH or SLR Magic Hyperprime T0.95 for your Leica M8 or M9 and you are one of those who want to shoot the lens how it is meant to be shot…WIDE OPEN! Yes, lenses like the Noctilux ASPH are meant to be shot WIDE OPEN and do not let anyone else tell you otherwise! Why else would we spend many thousands of dollars for a 0.95 lens? Well, we wouldn’t! This is also why these types of lenses are generally not meant for every day use. There are better lenses to use stopped down due to the weight and size of these super lenses so when we use one of these masterpieces of lens designs we WANT that 0.95 aperture!

The problem is that many of us who own these expensive but unique lenses realized that we can’t shoot in daylight when the lenses are wide open! I live in AZ and Here in Phoenix it is crazy tough when the sun is blazing down. Even at the base ISO of 160 with the M9 I would normally have to stop down to F/4 or f/5.6 just to shoot the lens, which means if I want that 3D look, that creamy shallowness, and signature look then I am out of luck…UNLESS I buy an ND filter.

I am sure that the majority of you know what an ND filter is but just in case you do not, an ND filter is simply a glass filter you attach to the front of your lens that will block most of the light from coming into your camera and hitting your sensor, allowing you to shoot wide open at slower shutter speeds even in full harsh sunlight.

For lenses like the Noctilux and SLR Magic I would recommend (and I own) a high quality filter such as the B&W 1.8 64X multi coated ND filter. The Noctilux takes a 60mm filter and the SLR magic takes a 62mm filter.  With this filter attached you can set the lens to 0.95 and shoot away, even at high noon in the harshest of sun. When the light goes down you simply take off the filter. I tested out my ND filter at the renaissance fair this past weekend and it worked out great. Usually I would shoot something like a 50 1.4 or 90 f/2.5 at these types of events but I decided to see how the ND filter would handle shooting at 0.95 all day long.

I found minimal vignetting and that crazy cool 3D effect you can get when shooting in the sun at 0.95. I found out the same thing as Ashwin Rao when he shot the Noctilux wide open using an ND filter but I used the SLR Magic T0.95 Hyperprime, and I was wowed by the performance yet again from this lens. If you have ultra fast glass for your 1/4000th second Leica M9, think about picking up an ND filter for daytime use. Not only can you get some unique and beautiful images, you can also have some fun with it.

All images below were shot with the M9 and SLR Magic Hyperprime T0.95 LM lens. Some out of cam JPEGS and a few from RAW. Without the filter, I would not have gotten this “look” which many love and many hate.

Speaking of the SLR Magic…after shooting more with the lens I have to say that it is indeed just as good (if not better) in IQ than the Leica Noctilux ASPH. This lens has a sharpness and 3D pop that is absolutely incredible. Never a focus problem, never un-sharp, and NO CA in any of the shots I took this weekend. Amazing. It certainly is not inferior to the Leica and I think many of you saw that as well since SLR Magic sold out of their 1st run of this lens in a matter of hours last week. The only issue with this lens AND the Leica is that the depth of field is EXTREMELY shallow when wide open. You can see the effects of this in some of the images below. Even with that, it is great to have a lens like this in your arsenal, even if they are insanely expensive. Enjoy!

Click the images for larger, sharper and better 1800 pixel wide versions

Mar 022012
 

Pre-Order the new SLR Magic T0.95 Hyperprime LM (Leica Mount) Lens Now!

Just heard from SLR Magic and they have just now opened up pre-orders for their Leica Mount 50 T0.95 Lens. As stated previously, the cost for this lens is $4288 if you want the Leica RF Coupled Version. What does this mean? If you buy this lens and ever have plans of using it on an M mount rangefinder camera like any film M or any digital M or even an Epson RD1 then you NEED the coupled version. This will allow you to focus the lens using the RF patch.

If you plan on using it only on a NON M body like a Sony NEX, Micro 4/3 or Roch GXR with M mount then you do NOT need an RF coupled version and this can save you $1,288 because the NON coupled CINE version is $2988.

You can pre-order that lens and even their much sought after 12mm f/1.6 for micro 4/3.

Seems the 50 T0.95 lenses will be shipping starting June-September and the 12mm 1.6 in April. You can click HERE to order.

Also note that you can choose between a green ring or black ring! Awesome.

My continuing review of the 50 LM T0.95 can be seen here and the 12mm f/1.6 review is HERE.

BTW, the photos in the image below at the SLR Magic website are NOT of the LM T0.95 lens but the Micro 4/3 hyper prime.

 

UPDATE MARCH 3rd 2012 – Due to the large amount of pre-orders SLR Magic has taken down the Leica M coupled version of the lens. The Non coupled is still available for pre-order. 

Feb 112012
 

 

TGIF! It’s Friday night and I am home in my quiet house relaxing with my old dog Scrubby. He is snoozing away on the floor next to my chair and the house is dark. I just watched TV for the past hours so I figured I would sit down and look over some snaps I shot today with the M9P, which is a camera I seem to never tire of. I may shelf it for a month or two but I always come back to it and am always enamored by its beauty, form and output. Yep, I love my M9 even after almost three years since its debut.

So what did I do today? I did not go out for photos. In fact, it was a boring old day for me here in sunny AZ. The weather was great at almost 80 degrees and sunny but I simply had nothing to do, and nothing to shoot! My fiancé is in Chicago, my best friend was working, my son was with his Mother and there was basically nothing to do after my work on the site was done today.

So after updating the site this morning I wandered around my backyard, and snapped away with my beautiful Chrome M9-P (see my updated gear page). In the image above you can see the HUGE SLR Magic lens attached and I have been shooting with this lens every chance I get..just waiting for something to go wrong..I mean, this is NOT a Leica lens. It is a lens from SLR Magic! It CAN’T be good, right? Well, that is what many think anyway.

The fact is that this is a GREAT lens. If it didn’t have the barrel distortion it would be every bit as good as the Leica Noctilux ASPH f/0.95 in it’s IQ. Still, the distortion is easily fixed but it never gets PERFECT like the Nocti. At $7k cheaper though, it is to be expected and besides, who shoots architecture with a lens like this anyway?

The fact remains though that this is a lens I never thought I would see anyone else make. It IS the FASTEST 35mm lens in production today even though it is not available until September, and  that in itself is quite the feat. Andrew from SLR Magic said the day after I posted the pricing info and his shops street address in Hong Kong he had a few visitors the next morning who saw the lens on this site. They all wanted to buy one then and there and one guy wanted TWO. Andrew found one thing interesting. All of these guys already had the Noctilux ASPH! Pretty interesting!

With their low production volume I seriously think they will sell every one they can make, even at the $4288 price tag. Also some have e-mailed me asking this question and no, I am not getting paid money to talk about this lens or write about it. SLR Magic is not even a site sponsor anymore though I keep up their little ad box on the right because I believe in what they are doing, and after meeting Andrew, I know they are passionate and really care about what they are doing. These words are just my real experience with this lens, and if there are any negative things that pop up you can be sure I will write about them. With that said, here are a few more shots from the lens with the M9P. Just snaps, nothing serious. They do show the character of the lens though.

One from the SLR Magic at T/2 – converted to B&W with some PP – click for larger. Sharpness is NOT an issue with this lens at any aperture I have tested it with. 

Another at T/2 – This is usually a bokeh torture test!

How about T/5.6 (I wish this lens was rated in F stops instead of T stops)  – click it for 100% crop!

The image below is interesting because the room was actually fairly dark. There was no window light, it was indoors and shot wide open. I was curious to see how sharp it would be, and this was 1/60th of a second. You can not get this look with a Voigtlander 1.1, or even a Lux ASPH 1.4 as the Bokeh would be totally different as would the rendering. This is the equivalent of f/0.92 and it comes into play when you have no light. :)

Soon I will be doing some side by side comparisons with this lens and others, so stay tuned for that. BUT they will be added to the review HERE. 

Other things coming up..

This weekend: Crazy Comparison: Nikon V1 vs Panasonic GX1

Really not so crazy I guess but I am curious myself so I may post this one over the weekend. Full size files, crops, color, noise…JUST for FUN and because I have both cameras here. I have the X zoom for the GX1 on loan along with the camera so should be interesting. Zoom against Zoom :)

I will also be getting my own NEX-7 in the next week or two (I hope) so I’ll be shooting more with that, and trying out the SLR Magic lens with it as well. Photo and Video.

I also have more guest articles and user reports on the way, so check back daily! BTW, I checked my stats today and this website has had over 21,000,000 views in less than 2 1/2 years and 2 million of those was in January alone! WOW!! THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO VISIT HERE EVERY DAY!!! I truly appreciate each and every one of you!

I have a feeling things will get nuts around here in April when all of these new cameras start shipping and even more news leaks out. Gonna be a crazy year for us all!

Feb 082012
 

Price of the SLR Magic 50 T0.95 LM (Leica Mount) Hyperprime Announced

After all of the guessing and wondering what this new Leica mount T0.95 monster lens will cost, I was informed today by Andrew from SLR Magic that the official price of this lens will be $4288 US dollars. Higher than some thought, and lower than others thought. About $300 more than I thought. As many of you know, I have been reviewing this lens in a “rolling review” and updating is as I go along and use it. I have now shot with this lens on three M9 bodies, including two M9P’s and on each the lens has performed flawlessly. No focus issues, no problems.

What does the $4288 get you? Well, for starters it gets you as close to a Leica Noctilux ASPH f/0.95 as you can get and for about $6700 less. You get a hand-built, hand calibrated lens that is on par with the Leica in weight and feel but no, you will not get a red dot.

This is a T0.95 lens so the widest aperture is equal to f/0.92.

Some more facts about the lens…

  • It is faster than a Leica Noctilux ASPH so technically, this is the fastest 35mm lens in production today.
  • It is slightly larger and weights slightly more than the Leica Noctilux ASPH
  • It will focus as close as .7 meters with very sharp and accurate results. There is no floating element in the SLR magic and it is NOT Aspherical. The Leica focuses to 1 meter but has a floating element and ASPH glass.
  • The lens is sharp wide open, and share stepped down. To date, I have not discovered any focus shift in my use of the lens (though further testing is coming)
  • The lens will be rangefinder coupled of course, and SLR Magic is also creating a CINE version without RF coupling for $2988, for use on NEX, Micro 4/3, etc.
  • The lens is hand assembled in Hong Kong by SLR Magic. Production will be limited. Not mass-produced.
  • SLR Magic is including a 3 year warranty with the lens.
  • You can order the lens with a black or green ring for the front, so black IS NOW an option.
  • Lens will be available to order in September 2012.
  • If anyone is in Hong Kong and wants to see the lens, you can visit the SLR Magic shop at — Shop 316, 47-51 Shan Tung Street, Sim City, Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong

You can read and keep up with my review HERE and I will be adding to it weekly. So far the only negative I see with this lens when compared to the $11k Leica is this lens has barrel distortion. If shooting straight lines up close, you will see this distortion. It can easily be fixed in 2 seconds but it is there. There will be samples showing this added to my review soon.

Below are a few newer samples I added to the review this week…

1st one, wide open at T0.95 (f0.92) – just to test wide open performance. 

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This was shot at f4 or f5.6…cant remember! But either way it is sharp :) Click image for larger and 100% crop

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Shot at T1.4

Feb 042012
 

UPDATE: Lots of nonsense has been spread about this lens on the internet due to one person’s comments and one persons lens. I have never had ONE issues with this lens and I found it to be solid, well made, beautiful and to render even better than the $11k Leica Noctilux (for my tastes) all for less than half the cost. The claims that were made were uncalled for as Andrew from SLR Magic is one of the nicest guys I have met in recent years as well as one of the most helpful and generous. The SLR Magic Hyperprime is now shipping with full production versions of the lens in full production packaging. It comes with a great warranty and is a solid great performing lens. Again, my experience with it has been nothing but positive and in some cases amazing. I am not the type of guy who says “It’s only Leica for my M”  as there is tons of GREAT glass out there besides Leica. Whatever works I always say and this lens just “works”. 

Thanks again to Andrew for all he has done for everyone AND even releasing this lens which no one else had the balls to do.

The SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 LM T0.95 Lens Rolling Review…let’s get it started

With all of the hype and craziness this lens has been causing since the Los Angeles workshop I decided to start writing a rolling review for the SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 T0.95 LM lens. Basically this means I will be adding to this review, right here on this page instead of making posts every day about it. As I get new images and new thoughts I will add them here. Almost like a diary of my use with the lens over the next few months as I put it through its paces before its official release.

I am lucky to have one with me for the next few months (a black stealth edition no less) so I can test it, use it, abuse it and put it through its paces. One thing to note..this is a taste of what is to come of this lens. SLR Magic is still tweaking and improving on the lens and if I run into any issues they will fix them before going into production. They are already making a couple of improvements before shipping lenses out to the workshop attendees who agreed to be volunteers for lens testing as well. Yes, the lucky ones who were at the workshop had 1st crack :)

I already know that the image quality holds up extremely well to the $11,000 Leica Noctilux ASPH. In fact, I may prefer the rendering from this lens over the Leica, and that right there is saying a lot. Actually, now that I read that back, that is HUGE. My curiosities with the Hyperprime is to see if the build quality holds up. By the look and feel, it feels like a solid tank but you never know. Not everyone associates SLR Magic with high quality but it appears with this and their 12mm Hyperprime they have decided to go with quality, and I welcome it.

BTW, for reference you can see my Leica Noctilux ASPH review HERE that was done when the lens was first released.

If you did not see the posts I have already made about this SLR Magic lens you can see those HERE, HERE, HERE,  HERE and finally HERE.

A Brief History Of This Lens

Probably close to a year ago I heard from SLR Magic and they told me they were designing a new Leica M mount lens from the ground up. A 50mm f/0.95 lens for the Leica M mount. This was not going to be a copy of their old Hyperprime that they sell for the M4/3 mount and NEX mount. Those lenses are nice, but not “amazing” because they are soft and glowy when wide open. They are also smallish but at the same time very well built and made. Still, SLR Magic wanted to create something special that more Leica M shooters could afford. A lens much like the Leica Noctilux but at a more reasonable price.

After they mentioned their ideas they started sending me pictures of prototypes that looked great. The lens started out semi small (smaller than a Leica Noctilux ASPH) and beefy. But the images that they were happy with that they snapped with the M9 and their lens, I was not so happy with. I told them if they were going to do a lens like this, they needed to do it right. I mean, Leica users shoot with Leica for quality. We do not want to spend money on crappy or overly soft lenses. If a lens has a .95 aperture, then we want to be able to use it at that aperture! As it was at that time, the lens they were creating was really good, but it did not have any magic to it in the image quality dept. They built the lens and it was built like a tank. Solid, smooth and heavy. BUT the lens vignetted strongly and wide open it lacked sharpness and contrast. The color was a bit dull as well and I told them that I would not buy that lens for what they would have to charge for it.

They decided to go back to the drawing board, keeping me in the loop with samples, prototype images, etc. Then one day I received a couple of shots, that to me, looked pretty damn close to the $11,000 Leica. I asked them to send me a lens as soon as they could and a month or two later they did just that. When it arrived I immediately made a quick post on it as I found it very impressive. The build, the feel, the heft… it was all LEICA LIKE. It was performing scary close to the $11,000 Noctilux ASPH. Yes, the lens that has up to a year waiting list and is almost impossible to find used. If you do find one used the prices are usually jacked up to $13k. Crazy. $13,000 for a lens.

Once I saw the quality I immediately sent SLR Magic an e-mail telling them that this is a lens they should be extremely proud of. The only negatives I found with the lens was that it had some evident barrel distortion and that damn green ring on the front. I mean, the green ring looks pretty cool on my SLR Magic 12mm 1.6 for Micro 4/3 mount but on a lens of this caliber…well, it deserved a black ring! Other than that I found the lens to be pretty damn amazing even though it was one of only 6 in existence and basically still a prototype. The lens ring is even stamped with the word “concept”. With the LA Workshop approaching, Andrew from SLR Magic decided to join us and fly down with all 6 lenses. This way, you guys wouldn’t have to take my word for it but you could see what other shooters came away with who were able to shoot with the lens. If it was a bad lens, they would say so as most of these guys love their Leica lenses. I even told Andrew we could do a Noctilux/Hyperprime shootout and he welcomed it. Shows he has confidence in their design. I will in fact be doing that shootout soon so we can see just how much difference there is with sharpness, flare, bokeh, and build.

The Lens In Use  – from me and others

If you have been reading my blog posts on this lens then you know that the lens was a huge hit in Los Angeles. There were quite a few guys trying to give Andrew the cash for the lens because we all saw it the same way. The SLR Magic Hyperprime is a well built, well made, nicely engineered hunk of glass. It is not cheap and it is not a toy. In fact, it is quite the opposite of what most people thought it would be. The lens is not perfect due to the barrel distortion but it is pretty close to the Leica $11k monster. In some ways it is BETTER than the Leica, and in others it is a bit weaker.

The ways this lens is better is that it will be coming in at many thousands of dollars less than the Leica. I do not know a price but if I had to guess I would say it will run about $3500-$4000 (The price has now been announced at $4288.00 US). Others at the workshop were thinking it would be $5500. No one knows yet but if you are someone who is into the whole Noctilux ASPH lens look, then saving $7000 or so and picking this lens up would be a pretty sweet option because the Hyperprime can focus closer, is actually faster at f/0.92 and has the same great color and sharpness as the Noctilux. The areas that are weaker is that this lens has distortion (barrel) so shooting straight lines up close will reveal this. Then again, we do not buy a lens like this for architecture. It is also longer and a little but heavier though when holding both in each hand, they feel about the same. No dount about it, this is a specialty lens, and for speed and special effect freaks. Not everyone’s cup of tea. BUT for Bokeh lovers, this lens is the creamiest 50mm lens ever made for 35mm. Click the images below for larger and sharper views…

As I sat there last weekend at the workshop looking over shots with this lens as well as the Leica Noctilux I was thinking “WOW…pretty amazing that a small company such as SLR Magic were the ones to create something like this”. This lens is serious competition to the Leica, and I am not exaggerating. Here is a comment from Bill Fulcher who shot with the Hyperprime at my LA Workshop:

” Shot both and saw many images with both last weekend. The Hyper is at least as sharp at all apertures as the 0.95 Noct. The Noct has slightly better ergonomics for still shooters and is more compact. It is also backed by Leica. The Hyper has slightly better IQ, focuses closer, is much better for video and is a skosh faster. It will also be a lot less expensive. All around the pre-production Hyper impresses me as the superior lens. But I wouldn’t really argue the point if someone heavily values the areas where the Noct has the edge. Best, Bill”

So if you do not care about the name, and the slightly larger build you could save thousands of dollars by going with the HyperPrime. If the Leica name, backing and reputation is worth up to $7k then go for it. It’s all personal pref but as for performance, this lens is just about equal to the mighty Leica in regards to sharpness, and as for Bokeh it is even more creamy. Color is about the same as is the contrast.

Andrew told us that some of the lens elements come from Germany and other China. The lens is assembled in Hong Kong by hand and will NOT be able to be mass-produced due to the tight tolerances and calibration required. The 6 samples at the workshop had no issues focusing, which I found to be pretty amazing as I have had Noctilux’s that were all over the place. Not sure how they managed to pull off what Leica can never seem to do reliably. Then again, there were actually only 4 RF coupled versions there and they were each the 1st lenses made so I am sure special care went into them. I was told that each lens made will have that same special care in regards to build and calibration. I can say that Andrew was a fascinating and very passionate guy and he was truly excited about this product.

SLR Magic? Green Rings?

So who the hell is SLR Magic and why the hell are they called SLR Magic when they do not make ANY SLR products? I wondered the same thing so I asked Andrew when they started and how. SLR Magic are based in Hong Kong and started up 6 years ago making adapters for cameras and SLR lenses. They also started selling hand-made leather straps and other fun products. Soon they started the toy lenses that came in for great prices and provided fun results. They decided to start building lenses from the ground up and released a couple of NEX lenses and the fantastic 12mm 1.6 for Micro 4/3 that I LOVED. When they started telling me about this lens and showing me versions with green rings I asked for a black ring and suggested that for a Leica mount lens they may want to sell it with black instead of neon green. At the workshop mostly wanted black, but a couple liked  the green. After much thought Andrew decided on selling a “stealth” edition with some other goodies possibly to be included. Ahhhhh…much better :)

 

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Who needs a lens Like this?

The easy answer? No one really NEEDS a lens like this. Just like no one NEEDS a Leica Noctilux ASPH. Lenses like this are purchased with the heart because they are special..they are unique..they can give a look like no other lens and it’s also super fast for this nights you want to shoot in the dark. I used the Leica Noctilux last year on tour with Seal and came away with some great stuff. I made his new album cover as well. All with the Noctilux. Lenses like this are very useful and can provide results that help separate you from the crowd but it is also very easy to get carried away with the shallow depth of field. Use it wisely and lenses like this can deliver magical results. Overuse it and it gets gimmicky. It is also NOT an everyday lens due to the weight and size, but for those times you want some magic injected into your photos a lens like this or the Leica will give it to you in mass quantities.

Some readers were commenting how this lens has no real use, but I disagree. It was a lens just like this Hyperprime (The Leica Noctilux ASPH) that gave me this shot and made me some much-needed money in 2011. These lenses do have their place and I enjoy having a super fast special effect lens on hand and in my stable.

QUICK comparison with the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4

Below are two straight from camera shots. The 1st from the SLR Magic at T1.4 and the 2nd from the Leica 50 Lux ASPH at f/1.4 – Click each image for the full size 18PMP file. What do you think?

New Sample Images – Full size and crops – and shooting stopped down…

More updates! The images below are all out of camera (from RAW) images using the SLR Magic lens. The T stop is written on the image and you must click each image to see the full size file. Check out how sharp it is when stopped down! This lens is simply amazing and I am loving shooting with it. I took some personal shots and it was  the only lens I shot with while in Sedona AZ for the weekend.

The 1st shot is at T/2 which is more like f/1.8. Click image for the full size and check out the blue duster, which is where I focused. Wow. 

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Below is a full size out of cam shot at T/4…click image to see the full size!

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Another at T/4  – not full size but you can click for larger

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Wide open at .7 meters…

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At f/5.6 this lens is just as razor sharp as it is at any aperture – click image for large size with 100% crop embedded

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Love the rendering wide open…

The price of this lens… $4,288.00 – It is NOT cheap!

SLR Magic has announced that this lens will come in at $4,288.00 US. Quite a hefty amount of cash outlay for a lens made by SLR Magic. But, they are not mass producing this lens, and each one will be hand assembled and calibrated for rangefinder use. For a Leica M mount that has the build, feel and IQ of the $11k Leica, the price of this lens is fair. BUT at this price point you have to start to think a little. Would you prefer a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH at $4k? It’s smaller..and a Leica. But, it is not f/0.92. Speed is expensive, just take a look at the Noctilux. IMO, this lens is better than the Noctilux F1, better than the Voigtlander 50 1.1 and just about equal to the Leica $11k Nocti. Just about but not quite. So at $4288 vs $11,000, one can now have an alternative to spending that huge sum of cash for a lens like this. Since this lens is hand made and assembled, SLR Magic can only produce 10 of these per month. So, I expect they will sell them all. I also expect they will fetch a good price used as well.

SLR Magic is giving a 3 year warranty with this lens and it will be available in September 2012, after Photokina. 

More samples…all wide open

Shooting this lens on a Sony NEX-5n – IN THE DARK!

When I held my Los Angeles workshop in January, Andrew from SLR Magic brought along 6 copies of this lens for all to try. We had 30+ attendees in all shooting and trying out the lens, well, most of them did. One guy, Judd Weiss had a Sony NEX-5n and was a newbie to photography. He told me the week before he learned what “Aperture” meant, lol. Great great guy though and he was able to take the SLR Magic lens, attached to his NEX-5n to a party on Saturday night to test it out. He told me that all of the photos below were shot in “near dark” conditions but the lens sucked in the light and made them appear brighter than it was. IN fact, I remember him being pretty excited by the fact that even though the room was dark, the images make it look like there was light.

He shot all of the images below wide open at T0.95 and still appears he needed faster shutter speeds, but here are a few examples from Judd in a situation where the large aperture made a difference.  When shooting in dark conditions such as this, no lens will give you razor sharp details because you are shooting in the dark at low shutter speeds and high ISO. But using a slow lens and no flash is impossible so sometimes you need the speed if this is the style you want to go after. You can visit Judd’s blog HERE.

ALL shots below were taken by Judd Weiss with his Sony NEX-5n and the SLR Magic Hyperprime WIDE OPEN, IN NEAR dark conditions!

The Barrel Distortion – How bad is it?

Many of you guys have been asking me to update this with some examples showing the barrel distortion I have been talking about. It has not really been noticeable in the images posted so far but it is there and it is EASILY seen when you shoot up close to straight lines. The closer you get to straight lines, the more pronounced the “barrel” effect will be. This is about the only area where the Leica Noctilux ASPH beats out the SLR Magic. The distortion is disapointing but out of 500 shots or so with this lens, I have noticed it maybe 6 times. It is fixable in Photoshop but even then it is not perfect. I never noticed ANY barrel distortion with the Leica Noctilux ASPH but the question is…can you deal with this fault if you are saving $7000?

This lens has a fantastic 3D effect and is sharp as a tac wide open but get up close to straight lines and you will see distortion. The middle of the image pops out while the sides get sucked in. If you do note shoot any lines, you will most likely never notice it. But it IS there.

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A quick and dirty attempt to fix using photoshop during the RAW conversion – took about 2 seconds. 

So seeing that is is pretty much fixable, we have to ask ourselves what we shoot and what we would shoot with this lens. IT IS NOT a lens for architecture that is for sure. So far, this is the only negative I have found in comparison with the Leica 0.95.

UPDATE – February 19th 2012 – More images

Took this lens with me to a tattoo convention today but I was mainly shooting the Leica 75 Summilux. I did snap off a couple shots wide open though and MAN OH MAN, this lens performed flawlessly. I am convinced it is SHARPER wide open that the Noctilux ASPH! Again, no focus issues, no focus shift, it perfumes up close, mid distance and far distance. I continue to be more and more impressed with this lens. It seems to have the sharpness (or more of it) than the $11k Noctilux ASPH but with a bit more 3D pop and even better bokeh..oh and less CA. See the lamp below? The Nocti would have had purple fringing there :)

The 1st image below is wide open – focus on tattoo artist – THIS is one hell of a lens!  – Click the pic for larger – all other images below the 1st were also at T0.95!

UPDATE Feb 22nd 2012 – Some notes from SLR Magic on this lens to clear up some confusion

I heard from Andrew at SLR Magic today and he mentioned a few things about this lens that he wanted me to pass along. Here is what he said:

1) The CINE and LM version are different mechanically. The LM version is a mechanically different version in both mechanical design and materials for RF coupling compatibility. The only thing that is the same about the two is the optical design. Differences in materials, mechanical parts, and labor involved to calibrate the lens is the cause of the price difference. If used on a mirrorless camera with an adapter the two versions will look the same optically.

2) The lens is designed to be a professional cinema lens. What this means is that the lens does not have breathing, no focus shift, and calibrated in T stops. Breathing is when focusing will cause the angle of view to change while focusing. This is common for many lenses. Focus shift is when focal point is shifted as a lens is stopped down. This is very obvious when seen through video with the lens. T stop is the true stop of the lens so that when filmmakers switch between lenses there will be no jump in brightness. With a regular lens F stop is calculated and not measured so it will be different across lenses even from the same brand. Lastly is the stepless round aperture blades. This means you get to have everything else in between. Could help when using A mode and looking at the desired shutter speed. A bless for some and a nightmare for some.

The fact that it is a cinema lens does NOT mean it is a cheap video lens as many think. There are a lot of requirements to a good cinema lens. Lenses designed to Cinema specs can easily sell for 30-40K a piece!

What he said about focus shift and lens production…

3) Focus shift is not killing our production rate. Focus shift depends on optical design and we do not have issues with focus shift. The part where I mentioned we switch out for elements by dissembling and assembling the lens all over again is to make sure ALL copies of the T0.95 lens performs with superior optical quality (sharpness and centering). This limits our production rate for all lenses. We do not ship sub par T0.95 lenses so the answer is YES. The prototypes are hand picked. This hand picking process will also apply to every T0.95 lens that ships.

 

UPDATE: Feb 27th 2012 – The Leica Noctilux ASPH vs the SLR Magic LM on a Sony NEX-7

Ok guys, this was an image that someone took in SLR Magics shop in Hong Kong. A Sony NEX-7 was used and each lens was wide open – below are the full size images, out of camera, no PP, no tweaks, etc. Click the images for the full size 24MP files! What do YOU see? Notice one seems more zoomed in that the other? That is because the Noctilux is in reality a 52mm lens and the SLR Magic is a true 50.

 

UPDATE: The Sony NEX-7 with the Hyperprime 50 T0.95

I was out and about shooting the NEX-7 with an ALL NEW Leica to NEX adapter made by SLR Magic and was very happy with the results. Also, keep an eye here for news on this adapter because it is very unique. It is an adapter that you can twist and make the minimum focus distance of the M lenses disappear. You can focus super close now with your M lenses on the NEX system, so this is really cool. The adapter is not ready for sale just yet but seems to work very well. Check out the images below of the lens on the Sony NEX.

On the NEX-7 and super close focusing using this all new adapter. 

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Look at the rich colors and depth…this is wide open with an ND filter. T0.95

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Again, wide open…click any of these images for larger versions! – ISO 640

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T0.95 at ISO 1600 on the nEX-7

Shooting this lens on the NEX-7 was super easy. The focus peaking allowed me to focus quickly and accurately, even when wide open. The one negative about this setup though is that the lens is so front heavy on the NEX body. It is almost borderline ridiculous but with this lens on the camera be sure and hold it by the lens, not the camera body. I plan on shooting this bad boy much more on the NEX-7 as I am really liking what I see. I mean, it’s almost up there with the M9 files except they are not full frame so we get a bit of a different look. If you missed my NEX-7 review, be sure and take a look here.

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Jan 302012
 

The workshop attendees shoot the SLR Magic 50 LM T0.95 Hyperprime on the M9 and NEX-5n

Since I am now back home at my desk I can go over more images that were shot at the workshop using the new SLR Magic lens. These were shot by me and a few others at the workshop, credits will be before the photos…enjoy! Oh, and just for fun I threw in a shot taken with the 50 Noctilux ASPH. Which one is it? Check out the two from Jay Bartlett below and see the difference. ALL shots below are wide open and the title shot above of Max was taken by Ashwin Rao with the 85 Zeiss Sonnar on his M9. 

First, A few more snaps of the gang from me.

Stephen, the resident male model of the workshop shot at 0.95 – click image for larger and sharper view

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Below: Andrew from SLR Magic talking with Max on Sunday during our Lunch at El Cholo

…and speaking of Max Klimov, he shot some GORGEOUS shots with the Hyperprime – look at the rendering of the model shots

and one of his street shots as well…

Jay Bartlett took these at 0.95  – but one is from the Noctilux ASPH – one from the SLR Magic! Which is which? I can tell…can you?

BELOW: Ashwin Rao snapped this amazing shot while we ate dinner at the Yardhouse on Saturday night. It was DARK!

BELOW: Dave Grady tried his hand with the Hyperprime on the M9  – The 2nd shot has some CA (which the Noct ASPH has as well)

BELOW: Judd Weiss tried the Hyperprime on his NEX-5n

BELOW: Our awesome host, Todd Hatakeyama shot the next couple with the Hyperprime and his M9

I will be shooting with the lens for a few weeks/months and will be posting a full review down the road with many images, full size and comparisons with other lenses. I plan on flying down to Seattle to hang with Ashwin and do a thorough shoot out between this one and the Leica Noctilux ASPH. We may be able to even throw in the Voigtlander Nokton 1.1 in the mix as well. Should be a blast. Also look for a post this week with a wrap up on the LA Workshop including everyones fave images from the weekend. As for the SLR Magic hyperprime, it is a special lens and I am eagerly awaiting pricing info. When I find out, I will post the news here.

FAST FACTS and why this lens is pretty exciting:

The SLR Magic 50 LM (Leica Mount) T0.95 Lens has 12 Lens Elements, 12 aperture blades and focuses to .7 meters (also the equivalent of an f/0.92 aperture at T0.95)

The Voigtlander 50 f/1.1 Nokton has 7 Lens Elements, 10 aperture blades and focuses to 1 meter

The Leica Noctilux ASPH has 8 elements, 9 aperture blades and focuses to 1 meter

Jan 302012
 

SLR Magic REALLY IS Magical…the LM 50 T0.95 ROCKS

WOW! So today was the last day of the workshop in Los Angeles and I have to say that this was the most amazing workshop to date. It was a jammed packed weekend with lots of cool guest speakers, many amazing passionate attendees and lots of shooting in the studio and on the street.

Today we had an education when uber talented Elizabeth Wang Lee gave us a detailed and thorough talk on street photography. This was an amazing presentation and we all learned from her detailed explanations and samples. THANK YOU ELIZABETH!

Actor/Comedian Jeff Garlin also popped in to deliver a hilarious talk on street shooting, and at the same time informed us all that he is producing a documentary on Chicago street photograoher Vivian Maier. So cool! Jeff was a RIOT and everyone had a blast, so THANK YOU JEFF!

Me and Jeff, Shot with the iPhone 4s and the Tadaa app!

and of course, more of THE SLR MAGIC MAGICAL EXPERIENCE

Andrew from SLR Magic was with us yet again and he gave everyone a chance to shoot with the new 50 LM T0.95 Hyperprime Leica M mount lens. I will put this out there right now…THIS LENS IS THE REAL DEAL FOLKS. Flat out AMAZING. It is not just me saying this, but everyone who shot with it this weekend was ready to plunk down their cash for this lens NOW. I am hoping to post many samples from everyone who shot with it soon, not just my samples. Samples from the NEX system look amazing as well so stay tuned for those…

I will also be shooting with this lens for the next few months so I can give it a thorough testing and review. I was able to bring home a special “stealth” edition of the lens which means it has a BLACK ring instead of the day glow green :) YES! (this black ring will be an option when ordering, and the ring you see below is not the final production ring)

All I can say now is that this lens blows away (yes, strong words but true) the Voigtlander 50 1.1 and is on par with the Leica Noctilux ASPH with some of the workshop attendees preferring the rendering of the Hyperprime. My feeling is that it is just as sharp at equal apertures but the Hyperprime gives a teeny but more of a classical look, but at the same time it is mixed with the sharpness of the Noctilux ASPH. The look you prefer will be up to YOU.

From what myself and many others have seen this weekend, this lens is a real giant killer in regards to image quality. Wow. There are differences but they are slight. The bokeh is “fatter” with the SLR Magic due to the larger rear element. The SLR Magic also focuses to .7 meters compared to 1 meter of the Noctilux ASPH and yes, the Hyperprime appears to have much less CA than the $11k Leica.

The Hyperprime is a 12 element non aspherical lens.

Shot wide open at T0.95 – look at the 3D effect – straight from camera – M9-P – and shot through a coffee shop window Sunday morning while buying coffee for the group. 

Like the Noctilux, this lens is a BEAST, even more of a beast than the Noctilux f/0.95. In reality, the Hyperprime is actually faster than f/0.95 so it appears this will now be the fastest lens for 35mm in production. How amazing is that?

In build, I am sure the Leica is built better but the SLR Magic is built just as solid, and is slightly heavier and larger. It is a solid lens and nothing like the old Noktor Hyperprime that I was NOT a fan of.

THIS IS NOT THE $1000 M4/3 or NEX NOKTOR LENS RELEASED 1-2 YEARS AGO!!!

This is NOT the old Noktor lens. PERIOD! So many people are confusing this with the old $1000 lens and this is an all new, built from the ground up LEICA M mount lens. It is insanely better, larger, beefier and with superb quality glass and construction.

In fact, over the past 9-10 months SLR Magic has been sending me samples from prototypes for this new M mount lens and I have been telling them “NOT GOOD ENOUGH, I WOULDN’T BUY IT”  – so they kept re-designing and finally they ended up with what we have here today. The only question you and many others have now is…how can I  get one?

BELOW: Shot by Ashwin Rao at T0.95

SLR Magic has some cool touches up their sleeve that I won’t spill the beans on just yet but they plan on officially releasing the lens in September. A long way off but there will be a few testers of the lens until then to make sure it is solid, dependable, and high in performance. The 1st ones to get a crack at the lens were those who attended the LA Workshop so hopefully this lens will make it to a few more shooters soon for more real world tests.

HOW MUCH WILL THIS LENS COST?

SLR Magic has not announced pricing yet but I do expect it (of course) to be MUCH less  than the Leica Noctilux ASPH which now comes in at $11k. At the same time, I do not expect this to be some $1000-1500 lens either, as it is a specialty lens that will be hand made and calibrated, not mass produced. It is not constructed of cheap parts and the lens oozes quality when you hold it.

Many at the workshop who held it, and shot with it were guessing and afraid this lens would come in at $5500-$6k (goes to show what others who used it thought of the quality) but my guess is that it will come in lower than that. Hopefully we will see pricing soon. No one knows at this point so it is all speculation. All I know is  that if I had a choice of buying this or the Noctilux but could save something like $7,000 by buying this lens, I would. End of story. Of course we all want and dream of the Leica but for those of us who do not have $11k in our lens funds, something like this would make an excellent alternative.

The sharpness wide open is INSANE – Click image for larger view and full 100% crop at 0.95

It appears Andrew and all of those at SLR Magic are very proud of what they have created and I am glad I had a hand to get it to where it is today in the quality department. It is a lens they should be EXTREMELY PROUD of and if the build quality and dependability hold up over the next few months I am going to say that this is indeed a GIANT KILLER of a lens. But you won’t have to take my word for it, there should a few others writing about this lens soon. Keep your eyes peeled.

More to come…but for now a few more shots from this lens and the M9-P. I chose these simple shots because I feel it shows the many qualities of the lens. Enjoy!

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This was AT NIGHT and it was pretty dark. No flash required :) And all three of these guys wanted the Hyperprime and tried to give Andrew their order already. You can see Judd (far right) using one on his NEX-5n. Imagine the video capabilities of this lens…

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Smooth, silky but oh so sharp (click image for larger version)

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3D glasses not required :)

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The depth of field is insanely shallow at T0.95

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and one for fun…1st shot is with the Hyperprime at 1.4 in near darkness (hotel bar late night) and the 2nd is from the Leica 50 1.4 Summilux ASPH at 1.4. Bokeh is a little different here…”fatter” as some would call it.

CLICK EACH IMAGE FOR FULL SIZE 18MP FILE – STRAIGHT FROM CAMERA – ISO 1250 – LATE NIGHT LOW LIGHT SAMPLES

Jan 282012
 

The SLR Magic 50 T/0.95 in the Studio – Noctilux vs Hyperprime

So here we are at Day two of the LA workshop and everyone is having a blast. The day started with an amazing talk and presentation  from Jay Bartlett  on studio portraiture. Everyone took to the studio with their M9’s, E-P3’s, Fuji X10’s and X100’s and even a GRD III. The results were amazing and everyone came away with some beautiful shots. Mostly due to the great lighting setup from Todd as well as our lovely model, Jade Corrin. The image above was shot by Ashwin Rao with his M9 and Zeiss 85 Sonnar, one of the most beautiful portrait lenses ever for  the M system. I decided to shoot a quick portrait with the SLR Magic 50 T0.95 Hyperprime and I fired off 3 shots and 3 shots only to see if this lens would be acceptable stopped down for portraits. The Results?

Click the image below for full size file. I cropped some off of the left and bottom but the is STRAIGHT from camera, processed as RAW. M9-P, SLR Magic 50 LM Hyperime T/0.95

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Not bad huh? Thats about as sharp as you can get and for a lens optimized for 0.95…what else can I say? Beautiful color and rendering. Everyone at the workshop who has shot with this lens wants one. Now.

Just for fun comparison – Bokeh wide open at minimum focus distance – Noctilux/Hyperprime

The following images are in no way scientific. We were at lunch and messing around with the Hyperprime and Noctilux and decided to do a quick “minimum focus distance” comparison, wide open. The Noctilux at f/0.95 and the Hyperprime at T0.95, which as you may know is FASTER than f/0.95. Add in the closer focusing capability and the depth of field is extremely shallow. The good news is that this lens performs amazingly well stopped down as well.

Many of us have been shooting the lens here in Los Angeles and no one has spotted any focus shift or lack of performance when stopped down which is pretty incredible when you think about it.

On to the “just for fun” comparison…click each image for the full size out of camera file.

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As always…more to come. Tomorrow is our full street shooting day here in Los Angeles…can’t wait!

one more to show how sharp this lens can be wide open. Focus was on the eye as you can see…

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A group of the Hyperprimes  – Notice the all black “stealth” version on my M9-P :)

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and finally a few more with the SLR Magic.

From left to right – Andrew from SLR Magic, me, and Ashwin Rao. Wide open!

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Once again, using the lens at the aperture it was meant to be used at. Testing low light and wide open performance at a distance…no problems. Oh and this image below was shot at ISO 2500.

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