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Feb 172016

A Tale of Two Lenses: The Zeiss Sonnar 50 f/1.5 ZM and the FujiXF 56mm f/1.2 – Fuji X-T1


Hi Brandon & Steve!

You’ve kindly featured some of my photos here before, I thought it about time I shared something new with you.

Last year I sold my well used Olympus OM-D E-M5 to buy a Fuji X-T1, and I wanted to test out the Zeiss 50 Sonnar C ZM (Leica Mount) alongside Fuji’s highly regarded XF 56mm f/1.2. Whilst the two offer a similar price point and focal length they deliver very different images and user experience. Both are superbly made, solid lenses with the manual focus Zeiss being far more compact even with an adapter.

The huge viewfinder in the X-T1 and innovative focusing aids make using manual focus lenses enjoyable, easy and accurate. With its 1.5x crop factor APS-C sensor, both lenses become short-telephoto portrait lenses (around 75mm and 84mm equivalent on a full-frame camera). I won’t get into technicalities, This is really a ‘just for fun’ comparison.

As for my own conclusions, I tend to like lenses that exhibit distinctive, interesting bokeh and falloff. To my eyes the Zeiss has the more unique patterned bokeh with the Fuji being smoother. The Zeiss just nicks it for me, but it’s subjective and everyone’s opinion will differ.

Zeiss ZM Sonnar


Fuji 56mm


Zeiss 50 Sonnar ZM


Fuji 56mm


Zeiss Sonnar ZM


Fuji 56mm


Incidentally, the switch from Oly to Fuji was purely to try something new after several years. I loved the Micro 4/3 gear and feel it offers unrivaled quality at such a compact size. I was won over by the design of the X-T1 though and have not been disappointed at all… but that could fill another article! I’ll sign off here and leave you with some images, have a great day!

Thanks – have a great weekend.

James Stevenson

Jan 292016


STREET SHOOT: Hollywood Blvd.

By Darwin Nercesian

If you are looking for a target rich environment for a little street photography, there are almost always those local spots where we all know we can go to strike gold. Is this cheating? No, not really, but it certainly helps get the creative juices flowing. For me, well, I have the distinct pleasure of being both close enough and far enough from the famed Hollywood Blvd, home of Mann’s Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and of course, millions upon millions of locals and tourists that flood the street daily to get a glimpse, or perhaps just feel like they are in the thick of it. So when I got the call to accompany a few photographer friends into this jungle for a day street photography, it was simply an offer I could not refuse.

As always, I hit the street with my companions of choice, my trusty Leica M-P 240 an M246 Monochrom, and my 3 go to lenses, the 35mm Summilux FLE, 50mm Summilux ASPH, and 50mm Summicron APO. Ultimately, however, it was the M246 and the 50mm APO that saw the most action.

While Hollywood Blvd is thought of as more of an adult’s playground, apparently it can be fun for children of all ages.


This kid was having a blast, the the Globetrotter could not be more entertaining to the little guy. This went on for some time andwas a joy to watch. Lets just hope he doesn’t grow up and take advice from this guy.


And speaking of less than stellar advice, here is one I wouldn’t recommend, but then again, I take sides with Indiana Jones when it comes to the slithery in nature. Too bad this isn’t sin city because the symbolism really struck me here.


But giant reptiles were not all that was lurking on this day, and something march larger, and perhaps much more sinister was afoot. It is always great to be aware of your surroundings, lest you be caught off guard…


But no matter where evil lurks, there is always a watchful eye keeping the people safe. One need not look too far on this stretch of the boulevard to find a hero, and in this case, the calm fell over me when I noticed that we were under the protection of none other than…


And so it was that people celebrated the day, paying tribute to the arts, each in their own way.




While people from all walks of life shared common distractions…


Because who doesn’t like a slice of pie?


But in the end, after a long day amongst the stars (the ones embedded in the sidewalk), we found our true calling. In the midst of the glitz and glamour (not really), we learned that the lesson to take with us was, “Defend Democracy in Poland”.


My name is Darwin Nercesian. I am an architectural, street, and travel photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. You can see more of my work at:

Dec 162015

TWO Shots. Leica Q vs the Leica SL with 28 Elmarit M

JUST FOR FUN to see differences in color rendering and AWB performance of these two cameras. With that said, I was testing a 28 Elmarit on the SL and figured it would be a nice alternative to the 24-90 Zoom (due to size). Since the Q uses a 28mm lens, I figured “why not”. I snapped a photo of my table lamp with each camera and shot in RAW format. I then loaded my SD card and exported the RAW files to JPEG’s without any added PP or tweaks. The color as you see  below is exactly what came out of each cameras RAW file, and what a difference it is.

The SL is warm, rich and a little more bolder than real life. The Q is way cooler in color temp and not really like what I see in real life. Interesting as both of these use the same sensor, but as I say, IQ is much more than a sensor. The way it is implemented makes a huge difference. IN the SL, it is tweaked and implemented differently than the Q, which is why we get two different looks from two cameras that use the same sensor.

This is not a sharpness, bokeh or scientific test. This was specifically to test the color output from each camera without tweaks as many have asked me why or how I could rate the SL higher in IQ than the Q and this shows why. The SL AWB is superior to any camera I have used, and while not perfect, it is as close to it as I have seen in AWB from any digital.

BOTH samples are super, but both are somewhat different. My wall behind the lamp in real life is sort of tan/mocha and the SL shot nailed that color. The Q made it appear off white.

Must click the images to see them correctly



BTW, my Sony RX1RII review will be up THIS Friday! Finally! Then I will start working on my Part 2 review of the Leica 50 APO lens, as used on the SL (Part 1 was the M and Sony A7s). That should be ready to post in 1-2 weeks from now. I will say this…the 50 APO is still IMO the best 50 in the world, and it should be for the cost. On the M and SL it is just so “right”.

Check back tomorrow for more guest posts and then Friday for my RX1RII review!

Jul 032014

Greetings from Upper Bavaria in South Germany with my M9

By Rainer

I like to take pictures outside in the landscape of Bavaria with its picturesque atmosphere. Most of them are quite simple shots but every once in a while, I capture some really neat shots. This is not because I am a great technical photographer, but because I am actually there, right in the middle of the world that excites me the most. Even though I am not a pro, I still love to take photos just like you. These are the photos I would like to share with you

Located throughout the northern Alpine foothills, Upper Bavaria is home to pristine lakes, steep mountains and the famous metropolis of Munich. Today, I would like to share a couple of photos capture last week during the Corpus Christi Procession (also known as Corpus Domini) at Samerberg (Alp region), celebrated by the Catholic Church, the local society for traditional costumes and the mountain troops.

All the photos are captured with my Leica M9 and a Summilux 35 mm lens. (You can find more photos on and

The Leica M is a fabulous camera to capture the colors of traditional costumes and the specific atmosphere in Upper Bavaria.

Take care, Rainer

Picture 1 and 2: Salute during Corpus Christi procession at Samerberg



Picture 3, 4,5: The procession to different altars, representing the four corners of the earth.




Picture 6 People join the procession in traditional clothes.


Picture 7: After the procession, parishioners return to the church where benediction usually takes place.


Aug 112013

Sunday Funnies: Facebook Profile Pic? Get the angle right!


Saw this video today after someone sent me a link telling me how funny it was, and it is quite funny but also shows the importance of the magical angle. With Facebook self portraits so big these days, this girl may be able to teach you a thing or  two on how to get it right :) Check out her video below. Crazy right?

Jul 182013

Just for fun! Which one is which? POLL!

ANSWER: After waiting ALL day to let you guys mull it over, the answer is… The TOP image was taken with the Leica 50 Summilux. The Bottom with the Nokton. The easiest way to tell them apart is by the slightly rougher Bokeh of the Nokton. The Summilux is smoother in the out of focus areas but the Nokton is $3100 cheaper. So all depends on if you want the absolute best or the next best thing :) 

So which one is which? Decided to have some fun today before posting anything super serious :) We all know how wonderful Leica glass is, but it is so damn expensive and hard to justify for many of us. I always get asked “what lens is comparable to the 50 Summiux ASPH, but for less money”?

Well, these days I say without hesitation, the Voigtlander 50 Nokton 1.5 VM. Yep, the new Leica M mount 50 Nokton is GORGEOUS and is 85-90% of the Leica. Where it falls short is with some slight distortion when shooting straight lines up close. Other than that it is sharp, has pleasant Bokeh, great color and at a casual glance, very hard to spot the difference between it and the $4000 Leica. The Nokton can be had for $899 in black and $1099 in chrome. The Leica is $3995. 

So, which is which? Both were shot wide open at 1.4 and 1.5 on the Leica M 240 casually during one of the Palouse workshop lunches.

You can see my Nokton review HERE.

BOTH are direct from camera, shot RAW, no modifications whatsoever.

After you look, and click to see them larger vote in the poll below!


ANSWER: After waiting ALL day to let you guys mull it over, the answer is… The TOP image was taken with the Leica 50 Summilux. The Bottom with the Nokton. The easiest way to tell them apart is by the slightly rougher Bokeh of the Nokton. The Summilux is smoother in the out of focus areas but the Nokton is $3100 cheaper. So all depends on if you want the absolute best or the next best thing :) 

Nov 292012

USER REPORT: CV 25/0.95 on NEX VS Nikon 35/1.4G on FF

By Kolen Cheung

I forgot how long I have been reading your site, probably started by googling reviews on some Leica/Voigtlander lens. And the review I love most is the one on the Voigtlander 35/1.2 II. While other people might focus on the technical aspects, saying it is not sharp wide open or what, from time to time I’ve gone back to your review on this lens and read through it again. Again and again, I forgot how many times I did read through it. You showed me the passion you have and how much you enjoy from the lens. With the examples, you show great photos can be achieved with this lens. So some day I decided this is the lens I want. But just I don’t have a FF M mount camera (M9). I need the DSLR system for work, so while I have been tempted to sell all my gears and buy an M9 and some lenses, I just can’t do it. And then I love the 35mm focal length; I don’t want to put it on a crop sensor making it becomes somewhat normal…

So far when I just want to have a 35mm focal length, I would bring my D800E and 35/1.4G with me. It is already quite light in the DSLR terms and at such depth of field. But it is still quite heavy so more and more often I would just left it at home if I don’t plan to shot something. But sometimes opportunities cannot be planned…

Long story short, one day I suddenly think that why don’t I try to put the Voigtlander 25/0.95 for micro four third on the NEX camera to see what happened? I did see samples from one guy on the Internet. Strong vignetting and no infinity focus would be the deal breaker for many. However after much thought I decided to give it a try to see how well it can go.

So I bought it, the Voigtlander 25/0.95 with NEX C3!

First, I want to see how it compares to the usual kit I bring, the D800E with 35/1.4G. I know the latter must be better (just like you know the Leica 35/1.4 FE would be better than the Voigtlander 35/1.2II), but I want to see how well they compare and if it can satisfy me. This is the origin of this “crazy comparison”.

A quick calculation will show why I am interested in this combo. The NEX C3 has a crop factor of 1.54. So a 25mm F0.95 lens would be equivalent to a 38.5mm F1.46 lens on full frame. Hence close to 35/1.4 on FF. And this a little bit longer reach account partly for the differences you see on the photos below (and partly because I’m lazy not using a tripod).

Voigtlander 25/0.95 on NEX C3, at F0.95


Nikon 35/1.4G on D800E, at F1.4

I shot RAW only. I imported them into Lightroom 4. I use Adobe Standard as the color profile, and leave all settings to its default settings except adjusting exposure and white balance. Which one do you like?

There’s some technical flaw on the Voigtlander 25/0.95 on NEX. The extreme corners are totally dark, even worst than strong vignetting. The corners have some smearing (look at the bokeh at the lower corners). More glowing. Etc, etc. But that doesn’t stop one to use that. Just remember to do some cropping. At worst it would be like shooting from a micro four third camera.

But what’s more fatal is this: with the only micro four third to NEX adapter available in the world, infinity focus is not possible.

(All photos starts below have been applied some post processing)

Voigtlander 25/0.95 on NEX C3, at F0.95

Here I am shooting at “infinity” but the actual focus distance is about 14 Ft or 4m. These will stop most people from using this combo. But I actually know all these before I bought this combo.


Voigtlander 25/0.95 on NEX C3, at F0.95

Just get closer and one can shot wide open and in focus! And crop slightly to kill the dark corners. The crop factor for this is 1.74 making the lens equivalent to 43.5mm F1.65.


Voigtlander 25/0.95 on NEX C3, at F2.8

Want to go beyond 4m? Stop down a little bit. (Here I didn’t optimize it well. By looking at the EXIF data I can slow down the shutter two more stops and tune the ISO two more stops. And at post processing I boost two stops so it means I still have two stops to play around. If I were more careful I would shot it at 1/50s and ISO800 at F5.6.)

People may say why bother to shot this F0.95 lens at F2.8~5.6. And I’d say this is the compromise I have to make with this combo. After all short distance and thin depth of field are correlated so this is not as bad as one may think. Depth-of-field-wise, all I lost is to throw something at around 4m out of focus but in focus at a farther distance.

I cropped in the above two examples. But in some cases it is not necessary.

Voigtlander 25/0.95 on NEX C3, at F0.95

And an even better example would be some scenarios (e.g. at night) that the corner position are actually dark.

Hope that you enjoy the photos! And actually I like this combo. For a nice walk around I can bring this combo and use this solely. And of course I won’t forget the Voigtlander 35/1.2II I mentioned in the beginning. Rumors say that 2013 will have a full frame NEX and if it’ll be true I would replace this combo by that FF NEX plus 35/1.2II. That would be so much better but this is as good as I can get right now.

The last two things I want to add which may interests some of the others are: I calculated the biggest possible crop factor without absolute dark corner is 1.57, making the lens about 39mm F1.5 at FF equivalent. And the infinity focus issue is, as far as I know, not inherent. It is the maker of the currently only micro four third to NEX adapter who made a mistake. Maybe they didn’t use a real lens to test it? Or may be the lens they use has a too narrow aperture so that it looks sharp. Actually the seller claims that infinity focus can be achieved. Obviously they made a mistake and hope that they would know it by now and correct it!

My Portfolio is here.


Jun 062012

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

by Brad Husick

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan 152012

Fun Poll: What camera did I use to shoot this portrait?

Hello and happy Sunday! Just for fun I decided to throw up this quick poll and since I usually do not post anything on Sundays I figured why not?. I just shot a portrait of my Nephew about 15 minutes ago. This was shot in my living room with lighting that is super dirt cheap. I currently have three cameras in my possession. The Leica M9 and a 50, the Nikon J1 and V1 with the zooms and the Olympus E-P3 with the 25 1.4 and 45 1.8. Which camera do you think took the shot below? This is just for fun as polls always seem to get everyone involved! You can click the image for a slightly larger version.

[polldaddy poll=5844912]

UPDATE – It’s only been a few hours but figured I would update this before heading to bed. Quite a few guesses in the poll and in the comments. The answer was fairly easy to get because as someone pointed out..almost any camera can do great with decent lighting. Which proves my point that just about any camera in the mirrorless segment today will give great results. 90% of the cameras in this segment are very slow or fail to AF in low light. Cameras like the NEX-5n can do very good when the lights get low  but getting it to AF is another story. The image above, and the ones below were shot with the…Nikon J1. Not the best sensor but plenty good enough AND it’s AF is a dream.

So most of you got it correct. I have to send it back tomorrow so I took it out today and shot with while out shopping with my Son and Nephew.

The image above and the one directly below was shot with a great little light setup I received from B&H Photo. It’s basically a stand, light and umbrella. It throws some soft light but I think I will pick up a 2nd one and keep them in my office for portraits. This is the setup I used, and it rocks for what it is. I am a fan of lighting vs strobes because what you see is what you get. When I shot the image above I used Matrix metering but during the RAW conversion converted to B&W and deepened the blacks. It was shot with the Nikon 10-30 at 30mm f/5.6 at ISO 250 and 1/60th.

Below is another I shot with the same settings but I left it in color. This again with the J1 and 10-30 Zoom. 

In case you missed it, the point I was making with this post is that just about ANY camera today will give you great results, and backs up my statement that even a J1 or V1 is good enough for 90% of our every day uses. The ones who still bash the J/V1 and attack it no matter what I say….open your mind. The 1 system is not perfect and Micro 4/3 outshines it in many areas, but the 1 system also outshines M4/3 in many areas so the best thing to do is decide what you desire the most in your photo equipment. It is after all YOU that is behind the camera and making the shot. What you want is a tool that gets out of the way the most and delivers quality results, which any mirrorless will do with ease today (give quality results).

A few others from today with the them for larger and better versions otherwise you will not be seeing them correctly.

ISO 800 – at the mall through a window – you can see some grain here but it is not offensive. Still, you will not get crystal clean ISO 800 here. 

ISO 400 – 10-30 at f/4.5 – 1/30s

10-30 zoom at 10mm – ISO 800 – f/3.5 – 1/30s

10-30 zoom – ISO 200 – f/3.5 – 1/100s

and one at ISO 400 with crop – same results as from the V1 due to the cameras sharing the same sensor/processing. Click image for 100% crop

So there you go. The Nikon J1 is a good camera though I prefer the V1 and I really hope NIkon follows through with some fast primes like they mentioned. If they do this, and I feel they must, the J1 and V1 will get even better because we will then be able to play with Depth of Field a little. As it is now they are speed demons with some grain at higher ISO but they still keep the color when the ISO goes up.

BTW, who heard about the new Olympus OM-D that was hitting the internet in the last 24 hours? Supposedly in February we will see “pro” Olympus – an OM digital. February should be an exciting month with the Fuji and supposedly the new Olympus. It never ends! As always, thanks foe reading and for participating in the poll!

Aug 022010

Just for fun…some Sony NEX-5 and 16mm images…

There seems to be a ton of interest in these Sony NEX cameras, and I have gotten many emails asking me to post more from this little camera, and more specifically my opinions on the 16mm f/2.8 prime lens.

OK, I admit it! I am now a little bit bit smitten with the Sony NEX-5 and have been shooting with it and having fun with it for a few weeks. Even though its output is generally soft (with either of the Sony lenses) it’s a fun and fast camera to use. I now have both Sony lenses on hand, the 16mm f/2.8 and  the 18-55 zoom and while they are not the best lenses around, they can provide acceptable results if your print sizes are going to remain small. BUT, out of both lenses I am preferring the 16mm for photos by far. It’s smaller, it’s faster and it can give a cool perspective on things :) It may be a bit wide but this allows you to get closer and sometimes that is a good thing :)

The 18-55 is the better lens for video though as its AF is silent. Sony will soon be releasing their 18-200 mega zoom for the NEX system, so that should be interesting. I think a Zoo trip will be in order for that one, maybe I’ll take a drive to San Diego. Love that Zoo and it’s been about 7-8 years since I have been there. But today I wanted to talk more about the 16mm and show some more samples from this lens.

It’s a little slow right at this moment on the review front. Not many new things out worth talking about except the Panny LX-5 which I will have soon. Coming this week I will have THREE new film camera reviews! The plastic Diana medium format camera, A Bronica 645 and a write up on shooting ISO 1600 B&W film with a little Contax T2. Yes, I still LOVE film…just took a small break from it as it was getting a bit expensive :)

But anyway, here are some shots all with the NEX-5 and Sony 16 f/2.8 lens. Sony says they are committed to the NEX series and I would think so as the NEX-5 is sold out worldwide according to Sony (though B&H has the silver in stock), so it appears they have a hit on their hands. Click on any image for a larger view!

ISO 6400, in cam B&W with some contrast tweaks in CS4. Arm length Self portrait..obvious lens distortion on the edges, but remember this is a 16mm lens that costs $249 :)

another at ISO 6400 in low light…

iso 640

iso 200 f/3.5

iso 200 f/5

iso 1600, closest focus – plenty of distortion which makes my sons face look oddly shaped, so I would avoid portraits with the 16 up close :)

What I like about the Sony 16mm E mount lens? It’s small, it’s light, it’s price (Only $249) and it’s a wide angle, which can be fun if you like that sort of thing. What I do not like about it? It’s a cheap feeling lens, it has plenty of distortion, and its soft and lacks that sparkle I am so used to with Leica, but again, this is a $249 lens, not a $3500 lens :)


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Jun 102010

OK, I woke up too early today. 4:30am…woke up, could not go back to sleep. My usual time is 6:30 AM. So what did I do for those extra two hours? I was bored so I took a stroll around the block at 5:30. It was a comfy cozy 72 degrees and I had the little Leica V-Lux 20 in hand and I shot a couple of quick macro photos just to see how close I could get. So I snapped a few and when I looked at the files on screen I thought it would be fun to throw this up this morning.

Just for fun I figured I would post a crop here and see if anyone could guess what it is. Ha ha…BTW, my full V-Lux 20 review is coming soon. I have the camera for a few more days and have been testing out all of its features. The cool thing is that it fits in my front pocket and has a zoom range of 25-300mm. Also, the video has been improved over the HD video in the D-Lux 4 with AF, smooth zoom and better video and audio quality.

So…anyone have any guesses as to what this may be? If someone guesses right I will post the full photo. If not, I will post the answer and full photo anyway within 24 hours :)

UPDATE – 8:09 AM – Waruna Gomis got it right! It’s Cockroach Legs!

Was walking and saw this dead roach on the sidewalk. GROSS! I hate these things but could not resist snapping a quick shot :) BTW, I am working on my V-Lux 20 review right now..will be up this weekend. My Fuji GF670 review is being pushed back until next week as I want to get a few more color rolls through it. Tim A, still hungry?


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