Mar 292014
 

My story with Leica so far

By William Bichara

My name is William Bichara and photography is the only thing that makes me alive and happy. My business focus is on weddings and portraits, but for my personal enjoyment, I do street photography. I came across your blog and website a couple of years ago when I was looking for some reviews. Since then, I am a regular visitor, for daily inspirations, posts, reviews and news. I find your blog very informative. It also provides awesome recommendations. A great example is recommending Leica dealer, Ken Hansen. You had mentioned him and his great service many times in your reviews. I have recently approached him and will always be happy with this (indirect) introduction, as it made me the proud owner of my first Leica M and my first Leica lens, and I can’t be happier about my purchase.

For random business needs over the years and with a daunting struggle to find the right camera that can satisfy both my professional and personal preferences, I have owned several camera systems, ranging from Hasselblad to Fuji, Nikons and Leicas (V, C, X systems). But in the last few years I found myself slowly breaking out of the shell of practicality and convenience and shifting towards the camera choices that brings more life and reflect more of me into my pictures. Nothing even came close to achieving this life long purpose other than the Leica.

Because of my helpless weakness towards black and white photography, I came so close to buying the Monochrom recently. That was shortly before the M240 came out. When it did, I was torn between the two for a while. Additionally, I had never owned Leica lenses and I was satisfied with using the Noktons. Reading and listening to your reviews on the M240, the Monochrom and the M 50mm lenses daily was very helpful. It provided key insights that helped me reach a decision and urged me to connect with Ken Hansen. I have to admit that Hansen provided me with the best service I ever received, (so thank you!!). This week, I got my M240 and my first Leica lens 50mm Summicron, and I had the opportunity to test them in a photo shoot I had the next day, and I have to say, I am in love all over again.

I say ‘again’, because one thing I forgot to mention about me is that I have a love story with Leica from a very young age. It started with the M6 back in the early 80s. Many years went by and I never afforded to get my favorite camera. In the last ten years I started buying few Vluxes and the X. They deliver awesome results but they never filled the gap for me. It wasn’t till two years ago when I bought an ME, and very recently, my first love, a used M6. That was a thirty-year wait for me, lengthened by the false conviction that Leica is not a practical choice for a professional photographer. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Now I have the M and the Summicron and I can’t be more impressed by the quality, sharpness, color rendering and overall mysterious feel of its images. I am now certain it will be THE camera for me, for weddings, portraits, fashion and all. Finally I want to thank you again for your very helpful blog and to share with you some shots from my very first shoot with the M.

The very first click, the 0001 was of my little boy (who is having the same love story with Leicas like me :))

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Then I went on to my shoot with a client of mine and took the M240 with so much love and confidence to do the shoot with :)

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Here is where you can see more of my work: www.williambichara.com and www.weddingsbybichara.com

Sincerely,

William Bichara

 

 

Mar 272014
 

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The Zeiss 15mm F2.8 Distagon T* ZM lens

By Jerry Bei

The Zeiss 15mm F2.8 Distagon T* ZM is a one-of-a-kind lens, it is truly a monster when mounted on a Leica M body that offers exquisite image rendering. In short, this is not a lens for everyone but it offers insanely sharp, highly contrasty and richly saturated images. So if you are looking for an exotic ultra-wide angle lens that generates a unique rendering then look no further.

This lens is not your typical “Made in Japan” Zeiss lens, it is hand-crafted in Germany and Zeiss went all out with this design. The Zeiss 15mm F2.8 ZM used all sorts of exotic types of glass and incorporated aspheric lens elements, which is uncommon for Zeiss designs. All of those factors contribute to making this lens the most expensive lens in the ZM line-up and it is what separates it from all others.

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Build Quality and Ergonomics

The build quality of the Zeiss 15mm Distagon ZM lens is exceptional. It matches the German-made Leica standards and the ergonomics of this lens is excellent. The lens is relatively large when compared to other M mount lenses but it still feels great in the hands of the photographer. The lens comes in at 13oz or around 370 grams, which is not light for a rangefinder lens but it is well-balanced on either the Leica M9 or the Leica M240.

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Practical use

The Zeiss 15mm F2.8 Distagon ZM lens is not rangefinder coupled when using on the Leica M9 but this is overcome by the live-view function on the new Leica M240. Although this lens is not rangefinder coupled, it has the minimum focusing distance advantage down to 0.3m, which is around a person’s forearm length thus allows the photographer to shoot with close objects.

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In terms of Image rendering, there is strong vignetting visible at all apertures and if you a fan of Vignetting effects then this would be the ideal lens for you. Otherwise, this is easily reduced by applying the Central Density Filter (CDF) provided by Zeiss, which is specifically manufactured and designed for this lens. The CDF is a unique density filter that only densifies the central part of the glass which minimises the vignetting overall. (Just a kind reminder, Do not lose the CDF filter, as it does not come cheap to buy it separately at approximately $600 US Dollars. The colour casts can also be noticeable around the corners when taking photos with certain backgrounds, which produces magenta on the left along with cyan on the right but this can be easily fixed by using the CornerFix Software.

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When shooting with the Zeiss 15mm Distagon ZM lens, It is recommended to purchase a Zeiss 15mm Viewfinder or a cheaper alternative Voigtlander 15mm viewfinder for functional use on the Leica M9 and other rangefinder bodies. As for the lens profile, I tend to mount the lens and leave it to automatic detection mode but you are free to experimenting or try different lens profile which suits you.

My Website: www.jerrybei.com

My Flickr: www.flickr.com/jerrybay

Feb 272014
 

Aldeburgh: A Fishing Village with My Leica M By Howard Shooter

By Howard Shooter

At 7.00am at the weekend, when most people would be pleased to have the duvet well and truly wrapped around them, I looked out of the window from my parents house in Aldeburgh, Suffolk and scrambled out with layers and layers of clothes to protect me from the East Coast winds.

Aldeburgh is a beautiful fishing village, famous for its fish and chips and quintessentially, traditional english manner. The coastal views are beautiful and the pebble beaches capture the sentimentality of a 1950′s seaside postcard.

The light is beautiful and inspires photographers to shoot the fisherman bringing in their catches. They rely on the local restaurants and the tourists buying the fish from their huts. The families of fishermen have been fishing for generations. My family has had a connection to Aldeburgh for nearly 40 years and have always gone back to London with the freshest, tastiest Sea Bass, Dover Sole, and Cod.

So anyway, a couple of weeks ago there I was with my trusty Leica M240, Leica’s latest iteration of the rangefinder, all weatherproof and digital, trying to capture my Aldeburgh story.

Here’s the techy bit! I’ve used a couple of lenses, mainly the 50mm Summilux and shoot fairly stopped down. I like to shoot using Aperture priority and use the exposure compensation to refine the exposure based on my chosen depth of field. As a very general rule I find shooting inside needs a compensation factor of about plus 2/3rds whilst outside I often have to compensate by minus 1/3rd. This is the same for Nikon, Leica etc.

The Leica is a tricky beast, with manual focus and a hopelessly poor placement of the exposure compensation button… hopefully future firmware will fix this. It’s fussy about light too. It excels with beautifully bright, clean light. This is a camera which demands that you really get to understand its capabilities. Often the initial use can seem underwhelming, but once mastered, it is a tool which, I think can reward the user with the most wonderful natural colour, with serious 3D pop. The files, as has been mentioned by reviewers, are a pleasure to work with, giving you plenty of dynamic range to really flex the levels and contrast with. For the most part though I don’t like to play too much with the raw files, just allowing a tweak here and there.

So here is my Aldeburgh story, my cold red hands were testament to the 7.00am chill, but the feeling of serenity and quiet light, more than made up for it.

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Feb 262014
 

garizm240

The Gariz Leica M 240 case is in stock again, act fast!

When I reviewed this case a few months back they sold out on Amazon within a few hours. They not only have them in black but I noticed today that they also have 10 BROWN cases in stock over at Amazon via the seller “Viva Outfitters”. I have purchased a couple of items from them in the past and shipping was super quick, no issues.

In any case, one of my fave cases for the M 240 and it can be bought for $199.

If you want to take a look, see more or buy it, click HERE to go to the Amazon page. They also have it in RED. Also in BLACK!

See my review of this case HERE. 

Feb 172014
 

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My favorite ND filter for fast Leica lenses!

Finally! I found THE ND filter to own for my fast Leica glass (Thanks Ken Hansen)! Yes my friends, in the past I have owned many ND filters and I always had to figure out which one I would get. When shooting a Summilux lens or Noctilux lens an ND filter is MANDATORY if you want to shoot your ones wide open where they were designed and optimized to be shot. Over the last few years I have had MANY e-mails come in asking me “which ND filter should I get”..and I am happy to say that the one I own now is hands down my #1 favorite that I have ever owned/used.

It is a made in Germany Heliopan Variable ND filter that gives you a range to work with..from 0.3 all the way up to 1.8 or from 1 to 6 stops. This means you can use this single one ND filter for all of your ND filter needs. From slight brightness to brutal harsh light (like I shot the images in below), this ND filter will give you what you need with a smooth twist of the front ring. When Ken Hansen told me about it I had to give it a shot.

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If you are not familiar with the purpose of an ND filter I will break it down for you very quickly.

Let’s say you love shooting your Leica and Noctilux but you love shooting that lens wide open at f/0.95. If it is sunny outside or the light is bright you will not be able to shoot wide open because the shutter speed in your 9 or M 240 only goes to 1/4000s. This means that without an ND filter you will have to stop down the lens to f/4 or f/5.6 or in some situations even f/8.

With an ND filter in place you can shoot that lens wide open as the filter blocks some of the light. With this particular filter you can adjust how much light gets let in and it is marked from 1-10. I tested this filter in the super harsh mid day sun of Phoenix AZ and my filter was usually between #3 and #6 with the Zeiss 50 Sonnar at f/1.5.

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Using this filter it allowed me to shoot wide open to retain that classic Zeiss Sonnar look that disappears once the lens is stopped down. I shot the SLR Magic Hyperprime 0.95 M lens a couple of years ago with an ND filter as well, and all of the images shot in that report were with a Leica M9, the images below were shot with an M 240 and the Zeiss.

You can also use an ND filter if you want to shoot at longer shutter speeds, for example, a running waterfall. The ND will block the light to your sensor and allow you to drag out that shutter for as long as you need.

Anyway, this is an amazing ND filter and is the only one you will need for ANY situation. No need for 2-4 ND’s, just one. The build is superb and of very high quality, the ring to adjust the strength of the filter is smooth as silk and this filter is available from Ken Hansen in the two sizes any Leica shooter would need. 46mm (35 Summilux, 50 Summilux) or 60mm (Noctilux 0.95). These filters are NOT cheap but no good ND filter is. I believe this one goes for $260 but I found it to be a very worthwhile investment because it is the last ND I will ever need and will fit any 46mm lens I attach to my camera.

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I tested it with the Zeiss 50 ZM Sonnar which also has a 46mm filter thread and the filter presented no issues or problems at all. The Zeiss ZM Sonnar is a very unique lens and when shot wide open at f/1.5 it almost resembles a Noctilux in its rendering. Not quite, but close. The best part is that the Sonnar comes in at around $1100. B&H is back-ordered but Tony at PopFlash has one or two in stock right now (in silver) for anyone looking for this now legendary classic lens.

You can e-mail Ken Hansen here if you want one or have a question. ([email protected]) Not sure how many he has but he did tell me he had a “few” available in 46mm and 60mm filter thread sizes and I recommend this filter 100% for ANY users of these filter size fast lenses (Leica). 

Below are the images I shot with the ND attached, all with the Zeiss Sonnar 50mm ZM and all wide open at f/1.5 at the local Ren Fair here in AZ. BTW, it was almost 90 degrees in mid Feb and the sun was HARSH. AZ mid day sun sucks for taking photos, but I purposely took these at the worst time to test this filter, which did fantastic. 

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Feb 072014
 

The Leica M 240 at Night

by Ivan Makarov

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to visit New York City for a few days, focusing only on photography. Well, I focused on the food too, as it’s kind of legendary. Because I live on the West Coast, near San Francisco, NYC was an eye-opening experience in many ways, as I discovered a new culture, new kinds of architecture, and a new big city I heard so much about but never visited before with my camera.

I also used the visit as a chance to keep learning my new Leica M, which I acquired last summer before the birth of our son Yuri who’s doing great, by the way and is sleeping in my arms as I type this.

Up to this point, I’ve been using Leica mostly during day light, and sometimes indoors for family snaps around the house. It’s an amazing camera in those situations. When I was choosing between getting a new Leica M or a used M9, one of the deciding factors that swayed me towards getting the M was the high ISO performance, which Leica delivered with the improved sensor. I knew that some of the most important family photographs I would capture with this new camera would be indoors, or in darker conditions and having the ability to shoot clean images using ISO1600 or ISO3200 was worth paying extra money, at least for me.

When doing my research on Leica, I came across a lot of images online that were taken outdoors, but at night, using fast M-mount primes. There was something different about those images compared to what I’m used to seeing from SLRs in similar conditions. The colors looked more natural and vibrant. The contrast was beautiful. The sharpness was always top-notch.

As I thought about what to shoot in New York, I thought I’d spend some time in the evenings after dinner testing how Leica performs in those night conditions, using my Leica M, and Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH lens. I did have 50mm f/1.4 Summilux on me as well, but I spent most the trip shooting with the 35mm lens, as I just bought it, and also found it more suitable for street photography.

So how did Leica perform in those night conditions? In short, I was very happy with the results.

My goal was to capture the lights of New York as my eye saw them. The beauty of New York City at night is that it’s full of colors, lights, and contrasts, no matter where I look. Leica proved to be a very good companion in recording those scenes – just how I saw them, or even more beautiful when coupled with the rich Leica bokeh.

I shot these images with the wide open aperture, and using ISO1600. They were shot at China Town and Times Square – two locations that are excellent for night street photography.

The one downside was that the files still came out somewhat on the warm side, which Leica M is now known for. I had to pull down the saturation in reds and oranges a bit during post processing to restore skin tones to their more natural color. I’m used to doing it now. The recent firmware upgrade fixed those issues somewhat, as you noted in your article, but it did not fix it completely.

As a result of this trip and my new experience of shooting at night, I am now incorporating night street photography in all my photo related travels, especially when it’s a city that offers plenty of life after it gets dark.

My site – http://www.ivanmakarov.com/

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Jan 312014
 

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The Classic Cases Leica M 240 Case

Hello to all! Today I wanted to share some news about a case I am trying out for my Leica M 240, made by classiccases.co.uk. Paul Glendell is the guy who is behind these fabulous cases and he makes them for the Leica Monochrom as well. You can see the Mono in his case HERE in my part 1 review of that camera. He also offers M8 and M9 cases and all of them have different options available (with back flap, without, etc). These are all hand-made with quality leather AND hands.

His M 240 case is of fantastic quality and it is not too stiff, and not too soft…which IMO is just right. It is a case I really like and much different from the Gariz case I reviewed a while back (can see that HERE). While the Gariz was nice, small and fit like a glove the Classic Cases 240 case is more traditional when it comes down to the case design and offers a little bit of grip to hold on to. Not because there is a grip but because it adds a little size to the camera and those with larger hands will get a better grip when shooting the camera. It FEELS like a higher end product as well.

Take a look at the case on my M from all angles…

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I had planned to do a video review of 3-4 M240 cases all at once but the two others I was expecting over the past three months never showed up for review. Paul was the only one who sent in the case so his is the only one I will be posting about today.

In the hand it feels nice and the fit is very good (better than the Luigi I had for my M9 that I couldn’t use due to the fit being so off). In fact, the fit of the classic cases case is superb and if I had to complain about anything it would be that the live view button is slightly covered. It is tough to design a full half case for the 240 without this happening though. The upper sides, unlike the Gariz, are well protected and the leather feels like a real quality leather.

Some of you out there love cases and some of you out there hate them. I like cases but sometimes i prefer to go naked because it is much easier to unload batteries and memory cards without having to remove a case to do so. On the other hand, there were times when I went naked (my 1st M 240) and it got beat to hell when I dropped it. So these days I prefer a case.

There are quite a few cases out there for the M240 and this is the highest quality/best made case I have tried to date. It is not cheap at about $285 US Dollars (ships from the UK) but it is one of the best cases among the sea of half cases to protect that $7000 investment. Many wonder why a case would be so expensive but think about it. A full leather, hand-made and stitched case for under $300 to protect a camera you spent $7000 on (without a lens) is not bad at all. You can go up to $390 and buy an Art Di Mano case which offers a different design and colors (hope to review the Art Di Mano soon) and spend even more for a famed Luigi. $285 is about right for the Classic Cases M 240 case and offers up some style, beauty, protection and luxury to your already luxurious M.

if you are one who enjoys cases, you can check out all of what they offer HERE at the Classic Cases website. 

Jan 162014
 

A few thoughts on the Leica M 240. Softer than the M9?

By George Sutton

I thought I would add my comments on the Leica M240. By way of background, I owned a M9 previously and now shoot a M240. It has taken some time to get used to the M240 but the more I use it the more I like it and now rank its image quality among the best available. At first the images seemed less crisp than the M9 but when enlarged the detail is there and the images have a kind of 3D character. The softness many people see with a M240 is actually a smoother rendering that really shines when the image is enlarged, especially compared to the grittier character of the M9. Another thing I notice is that details just flow out of an image when it is enlarged. The M240 has a lot more range than the M9. Shadows are noiseless. I have increased the exposure by 3 stops on underexposed shots with no noise or loss of color or contrast. In terms of ISO, the M240 is as good as any camera I have used. The live view is helpful much of the time especially for framing the shot. I can shoot an 18mm lens easily without having to mount the extra viewfinder. The only thing I don’t like about the new camera is having to go into the menu to adjust exposure.

When I travel I want a simple and compact camera but also the ability to get the best IQ when a I encounter something special. I now carry a Sony RX100 in my pocket and a small backpack with the M240 and a couple of lenses and small tripod. The only photo I can’t get with that kit is a fisheye or very long telephoto. I also have a top of the line Canon DSLR and lenses and I know I could not get a better image if I hauled it along instead of the Leica.

I have not shot a MM and would not buy one because I don’t want to be limited to B&W and I am very satisfied with the B&W conversions I get with the M240. Would I get an even better B&W image with a MM? I don’t know. I do know that the images I get from the M240 are really good and meet my needs for both color and B&W in one camera.

The following are three shots I took on a recent trip to visit Christmas markets in northern Europe. The first is a color shot of a restaurant on the main square in Brugge, Belgium taken with a 35mm Summilux. The color is a big part of the character of this place and the shot would not work as well in B&W.

I recommend right clicking these and opening in a new window as they are full size files..

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The second is a night shot of part of the front of the cathedral in Cologne, Germany taken with an 18mm Elmar. it is cropped about 50%. Although there is not much color it still works better in color than it would in B&W. It shows how well the image holds up enlarged.

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The last shot is a B&W conversion showing sculptures on the face or our hotel in Colmar, France taken with a 90mm Elmar. It works much better as a B&W and retains the detail and 3D character of the original color photo.`

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Jan 142014
 

User Report: Iceland with the Leica M 240

 

By Alexandra Shapiro

Last month I toured Iceland with my family, cameras in tow. Iceland has a stunning and unusual landscape. Because it is a volcanic island near the Artic Circle, lava fields cover the surface with black, desert-like vistas overshadowed by mountains covered with green mossy vegetation. Gorgeous waterfalls (but not many trees) dot the countryside. Glaciers blanket other parts of the country. It rains a lot, so it’s best to use weatherproof gear or make sure you have plastic to protect your gear.

Our trip included a few days in the capital city of Reykjavik, a five-day inland hiking trek known as the Laugavegurrin tour that included some river crossings, and several days touring the southern coast. The trek involved about 40 miles of hiking, with overnight stops at heated huts in between, and some stunning scenery we could not have seen any other way — craggy lava fields, rust-colored crevasses, green mountains with pockets of snow and sheep grazing on rocky cliffs (and elsewhere).

After the trek, we flew from Reykjavik to Hofn, a town in the east, and then made our way west over the course of about five days by driving along the southern coastal road. We saw many interesting spots along the way, including a glacial lagoon, unique basalt formations, Icelandic horses, a glacier and many waterfalls. We also paid a visit to the fascinating Westman Islands (whose residents suffered through a massive and devastating volcanic eruption in the 1970s).

I was fortunate enough to have received my Leica M240 (after having waited nearly 10 months) shortly before the trip, so I brought it with me along with three lenses: the 28 Summarit, the 90 Summicron, and the new Voigtlander Nokton 50 1.5. Of these, I used the 28 and 50 most — the 28 for the majority of landscapes, and the 50 for some landscapes and lots of people shots. The 90 is a great lens, but I didn’t end up using it that much, as it often seemed either too long or too short for what I wanted to shoot. For the trek, this was all I used as I wanted to travel light because I would be carrying it for miles of walking (I also had the Canon gear discussed below with me for the rest of the trip). A few words about the M: it is obviously a wonderful camera. I’ve used an M3 for years, but never had a digital Leica before. Ironically one of the reasons I had held out for the M was live view, but I actually found that I used the rangefinder for focusing more often. (The focus peaking is very faint, I found.) As for the lenses, the 28 is tiny and super-sharp and was just the right focal length for many of the shots of the unusual scenery. The Nokton has nice color rendition and great Bokeh (to my mind) especially wide open for portraits.

I also brought a dslr, which I used in Reykjavik and for the southern coast tour. Although it would have been nice to travel lighter with only the Leica gear, I knew there would be opportunities to shoot birds, including puffins, so I brought along the Canon 70-300 L lens, which is great for shooting sports and wildlife. I did not want to lug a heavy camera body, so instead I brought the diminutive Canon SL1, which is a fun little camera. It doesn’t have the low-light performance of the 5D, and it’s a crop sensor, but the IQ is actually quite decent and I like the ergonomics a lot. (Some might hate it because of the size, but I have small hands, and the touch screen is great). I also brought the kit lens along — it’s a slow cheap plastic zoom but the IQ is surprisingly decent, and I figured it might be useful to have something wider than 70 for the SL1. The body (and the kit lens when I used that) kept getting wet in the rain but fortunately both worked fine after a wipe-down even though they’re plastic and have no weatherproofing.

Anyway, now for the photos.

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More of the photos from the trip can be found here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/27953454@N07/sets/72157635338841683/

And here is some of my other work:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/27953454@N07/

Jan 132014
 

A trip to Paris

By Darwin Nercesian

Hi Brandon and Steve,

I love your site and I am a daily reader. I really appreciate your non biased outlook and real life approach.

In the past few years I have transitioned from a really passionate amateur photographer (and gear head of course) to actually being able to make photography compete with (and sometimes surpass) my day job. That is a real thrill, especially since I never planned for it or even thought it a possibility. Anyhow, in keeping with the roots of my passion, I am always excited to travel with my wife overseas and roam the streets from early morning to early morning again, searching for moments and inspiration.

As I got more serious, I started to travel with a pair of Nikon D3s, a 17-35mm, and a 70-200mm. Ouch! That was a very capable setup but what a load! After trying out some mirrorless systems (M43, Fuji, GXR), all of which I appreciated for one reason or another, I ended up trying out Leica. That was it. Just my luck. I immediately fell in love with the gosh darned most expensive system I could find. Oh well.

So we spent some time in Paris this past year and even though I have a few M bodies now as well as an MM, that trip saw me travel with a single M240 and 2 lenses only, a Voigtlander 35mm 1.2 v2 and a Leica 21mm Super Elmar ASPH. I was missing a 50mm, but this combo served me well.

This first one has a story, sort of. I was walking towards the Louvre with my wife and we were approximately 30 meters from the spat I took the shot when i saw this woman’s arms reach around the back of this guy’s neck. I thought it was nice and started to walk a little faster. Then they started to kiss, so my wife, who is pretty sharp, gives me the nod and I take off. I was already in love with the Leica, but this shot really did it for me because I realized afterwards that I had adjusted my aperture, shutter speed, and prefocused for the scene on the run. All I had to do was stop on my mark, lift to frame, and fire! No AF issues, no menus or screens to look at, nothing. Simplicity really shined a new light on things for me.

Paris Love – Leica M240, 21mm Super Elmar

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The Louvre – Leica M240, 21mm Super Elmar

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An old room at Versailles – Leica M240, 21mm Super Elmar

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Versailles Gardens – Leica M240, 21mm Super Elm

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Jan 102014
 

Hi Steve

I had a huge dilemma, I own the Leica MM ( which I love) and on the other hand I was curious about the Leica M 240 ( I know how much you love her, and so does Thorsten Overgaard and many others). So on Wed Jan 8th my friend who owns the 240 and I drove to Jerusalem in order to try to learn about the M 240.

The first few hours I took his M and put in my SD card and he took mine. Than we changed again to our own cameras. From what iso, the M is a very nice camera, built like all M rangefinders which means good and solid , so it does not take much to understand the very few changes and get used to it.

I loved the new shutter which is even more silent than my MM, what I did not like was the wheel on the upper right side, I kept bumping into it not really wanting to but I am used to holding my MM there while taking photos.

One more thing I did not like was the line of knobs-5 – on the left side instead of 4 on my MM , as they added the LV- Live view, this does not leave enough space for ones fingers ( and mine are slim) so sometimes instead of pressing the play I pressed the LV.

The colours are nice and yet I saw some tendency to red colour , especially on the faces which i had to fix on Lightroom. All in all it is a fantastic camera , easy to manipulate , simple and yet gorgeous.

Here are some pics from both

Take care

Danny

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Jan 072014
 

Reportage in Peru with Leica

by Daniel Maissan

Dear Steve,

Last time I mailed you for a guest blog, nearly a year ago, I was sending it from India. Thanks again for posting it.

At this moment I’m working with a wonderful foundation in Peru. It’s a foundation that helps families with autistic children in Cusco, a city in the Andes. It’s a heart warming and intense experience, which I’d like to share with you.

This foundation, Abrazos (www.abrazos-autismo.com - a Spanish/Dutch site) is run by a Dutch lady, living here now for six years already. With the help of experts from the Netherlands, she trained local women to be therapists and so they are now able to help over 170 families in the city. This is done at their headquarters but mostly they do house calls and have one hour sessions with the children in their own house.

They asked me to make a reportage about their work and about the children they help. Of course I couldn’t say no. Again I took the Leica Monochrom to do the photography, as the Black & White has been my comfort and love since India. But I also decided to bring the M 240 as a backup. As we got to the first house call, I decided to use it to film the session. I had never done this before, and of course I didn’t bring a tripod or anything, so it’s a bit shaky here and there. Still I’m really happy with the results and it does give a good picture of the help these kids get.

Below is a video of Eva- Maria, a four-year-old girl who lives in the outskirts of Cusco. She likes to play with blocks, is very interested in photos and sits hours and hours reading magazines, looking at the pictures. As is the case with a lot of autistic children, communication, concentration and changing a daily schedule is hard for her. So this is what Claudia, the therapist, worked on during our one-hour session with her. Video shot with the M 240.

These photos are of different children we’ve visited in the past days. Of course there are several more that you can check at my facebook page  or flickr account . The children are from all levels of society, some live in a one-room house where things have to be moved around for the therapy session, others have a huge house and a father that works all day so the upbringing is left to the mother.  For every child they worked out different exercises like counting, colors, moving through traffic and adaptive skills.

 

Photo 1 & 2 Austin, 3 years old

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Photo 3 Jefferson, 5 years old

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Photo 4 Yasmin, 3 years old

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Photo 5 & 6 Nicolas, 6 years old

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Photo 7 Lucas, 10 years old

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Photo 8 Angela, 16 years old

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Photo 9 & 10 Group therapy, cooking class at Abrazos headquarters.

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Dec 032013
 

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My pick for Camera of the Year 2013! The Olympus OM-D E-M1!

So here we are at the end of the year 2013 and boy did this year fly by just as they all seem to do. Last year I remember sitting down to write about my pick for  “Camera of 2012″ and back then I chose as the Sony RX1 due to its amazing IQ, small size, beautiful lens and overall awesomeness. I still love the RX1 and it is just as good today as it was last year. I expect it to be just as good in 5 years from now or as long as the camera stays alive.

This year there were MANY cameras released that were drool worthy. The Leica M did not start getting into most peoples hands until 2013, the Olympus E-M1 hit mid year and the Sony A7r and Nikon Df JUST hit in these past couple of weeks. Sure there were other cameras released this year but for me, these are the four that stand out for 2013 without question.

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And the winner is…

Yes indeed..for me, pound for pound, dollar for dollar, the Olympus E-M1 takes the prize for camera of the year. Why? Well, there are MANY reasons, so many in fact that it made the decision quite easy for me. Sure, the A7 and A7r from Sony are top-notch IQ machines, but a camera is so much more than just IQ alone. Sure the Leica M is a masterpiece of German design and in the hand it feels amazing and it is a joy to shoot with. The lenses are second to none. Sure the Nikon Df is a retro inspired low light king but it is still a DSLR and has those huge lenses that go along with it.

Nope, for me the E-M1 is it. It has everything one could want in a camera. It is a joy to use, to handle, to frame with. There are so many amazing lenses available for it that the choice is nearly unlimited in what you can do with it, and there are some flat-out astounding lenses for this camera, not just average quality lenses. The E-M1 “just works”.

The AF is blazing fast and accurate. The 5-Axis IS is the best in the business. The build is solid and pro. Weather, freeze and shock proof, and it really is. The EVF is the best in the entire digital camera world right now. The color it puts out is beautiful and the sharpness is very good, even for large prints. The lifetime and live bulb feature is one of a kind. The LCD is big and sharp and swivels.  It is also the least expensive of the lot of cameras I have mentioned here. $1399 for a pro quality bullet proof body with the lenses available to do whatever you need. Olympus thought of and gave us their all, in one hell of a camera body.

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Yes, the E-M1, for me, is indeed the best camera that was released in 2013 due to everything that it offers. It is more than a one trick pony, it offers everything. No, it is not up there in flat out IQ when pixel peeping against a Leica M or Sony A7 file, and the highest of ISO’s is not as good as what we get from full frame but the E-M1 holds its own in all areas.

It is one of those cameras that when you pair it with the right lens it is hard to take a bad shot with.

I love the Sony A7 and A7r, I love the Leica M 240 and I really like the Nikon Df but the E-M1 is one of those rare cameras that has the ability to “bond” with me, and it did.

So to all of you who look past this little guy due to the smaller sensor, I urge you to slap on a 25 1.4 or 17 1.8 or 45 1.8 or 75 1.8 or even a 12 f/2 or 25 0.95 or 42 0.95 and go out for a day and shoot. There is just no way you would be disappointed. I have shot with them all and still love and use the E-M1 the most right now. Like I said, it works and works well :)

Of course many will be arguing and disagreeing with me but I call it like I see it and like I say over and over and over…a camera is MUCH more than image quality (of which none of these cameras are lacking). A camera needs to have the ability to inspire you to take it out and shoot..a constant companion. One that delivers time after time, one that is versatile and one that is problem free. A bonus for the E-m1 is the 5-Axis, the EVF, the Build and the other one of a kind features. Easy choice for 2013.

As for the other cameras that were out this year, the Fuji’s, the Canons and the Samsung NX…well, those were all good as well but for me the four above are the creme of the crop of 2013. If I had to pick an order for these four it would be:

  1. Olympus E-M1
  2. Leica M 240
  3. Sony A7r
  4. Nikon Df

Where to Order these hot cameras? 

You can order the E-M1 at Amazon or B&H Photo or PopFlash.com.

You can order the Leica M 240 from Ken Hansen ([email protected]), The Pro Shop, PopFlash.com or Leica Store Miami

You can order the Sony A7 or A7r at B&H Photo or Amazon

You can order the Nikon Df at B&H Photo or Amazon

A few shots with the Olympus E-M1, click them for larger! 

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Nov 202013
 

Midnight Crazy Comparison! HIGH ISO – Sony A7, A7r, Leica M and E-M1!

It’s just past midnight and probably will be 1Am before I am finished writing this post but I just can not sleep and am not sure why. In fact, I feel wired for some reason. Maybe it is the fact that tomorrow I will be yet another year older and hitting the age of 44 yet my brain is telling me I am 25 and full of energy :) Nahhh. I think it was the fact that I was laying in bed thinking about what the high ISO performance of the Sony A7 and A7r is like side by side. I decided to get up from bed to go to my office and do a quick and dirty high ISO test between them. While I was at it I added the Leica M 240 and the Olympus E-M1. All cameras were using a 35mm or equivalent lens and all are OOC JPEGS without any NR turned on.

I noticed some reviews of the Sony were claiming mushy details at high ISO. Well, that is because they were using Noise Reduction. TURN IT OFF on ALL of your cameras for best results. It is my opinion that NR should not even be an option for a camera as it always obscures details and adds odd side effects to your images. Almost like a painting. The 1st thing I do when using a new camera is I turn off all noise reduction. It is off on my Olympus E-M1, the Sony RX10 ,the A7′s and the M 240 does not even have it as an option (from what I have seen) so Leica did it right.

The A7r…I am bonding with it…

The Sony A7r has been really attaching itself to me. After a few days I prefer it to the 7 in all ways..even shutter sound. It may be longer but it is a little more “silkier” it seems.  I also prefer the higher resolution as it is something I just do not have in any other camera. Having no AA filter is only good IMO and my favorite cameras do not have them (Leica M, E-M1, RX1R, etc). Also, the Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 is THE lens to order with this system. I like the 55 1.8 as well but the 35 has something about it and I can tell it has those Zeiss qualities. Many have asked me how the A7r with Zeiss 35 2.8 compares to the RX1 or RX1R. Well, the A7r focuses faster, is higher resolution, just as sharp but you lose that f/2 and have to settle for f/2.8. But at f/2.8 you still get a great look to the image. Full frame + f/2.8 is good :)

A quick snap while in Ikea today with the A7r and 35 2.8 Zeiss. f/2.8 at ISO 400. JPEG.

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So at $2300 for the A7r and $800 for the 35 you are $300 over the cost of the Rx1 but you also have a built in EVF which would run you almost $500 for the RX1R. So in many ways, the A7r is the better bet unless you want the smaller RX1R with the f/2 Zeiss.

So again, my full review is in the works for these new A7 cameras, so check back soon for the full detailed report with loads of images. I will also be in Los Angeles next week with some buddies at a studio testing out these cameras in a studio situation as well as some quick street work. Can’t wait and these images and my report on them will be in the full review.

The Crazy Comparison – HIGH ISO!

Hey! This was supposed to be a High ISO Crazy Comparison! Lol..well, here you go!

The Sony’s had the 35 Zeiss 2.8 mounted, the Leica has an old 35 3.5 Summaron mounted and the Olympus had the 17 1.8 mounted for a 35mm Equiv. ALL shots were JPEG, noise reduction OFF, OOC color and Exposure and AWB. The Sony and Olympus were shot at f/2.8 and the Leica f/4.

It is not a sharpness test but a noise test so here we go!

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So there you go. Olympus did the worst with AWB, Leica did the best. As for noise at ISO 6400? What do YOU think? 100% crops are embedded so you must click the images above for the larger size. What I think is that ALL of them did great for a midnight indoor high ISO test in my office at ISO 6400 :). These days, high ISO is great on all decent cameras.

It is now 12:51 AM..and I am ready for bed..finally :) Have a great night (or morning) everyone!

Steve

PS – You can pre-order the A7 cameras at my pre-order link page HERE!

Oct 282013
 

My Thoughts on the Leica M 240

by Brett Price

TUMBLR: BRETTPRICE.TUMBLR.COM

WEBSITE: IAMBRETTPRICE.COM

Hey Steve,

Had a few articles on here before. I mentioned in those articles that I’ve been on a waiting list for the Leica M(240) for over 6 months and had not received it. Well… It finally came! I now own a Black Leica M type 240 and oh man… Its good. On a side note, I was on B&H’s waiting list for around 7 months with no luck. I took a trip into london and headed over to R.G. Lewis to check out their Leica Boutique store and after talking with them for a while I decided to drop my name from B&H and get on the list with R.G.Lewis… Had the camera in a month! They are excellent guys and the whole experience (buying internationally) which scares the hell out of me, was handled in an efficient and top-notch manner. I highly recommend them.

I’ve written two other reviews on here about Leica cameras and gear related to that. I had images from the M9 with the Zeiss Sonnar f1.5 (a lens that I found ultimately frustrating) as well as images shot on film the with Summilux 50mm ASPH on film with my M7. I don’t own the M9 anymore but I still own the Summilux and my trusty M7 and I can tell you right now that the pairing of the 240 and the Summilux is nothing short of amazing. I know you’ve written extensively on this combo before but I thought I would share a few of my own that I shot this last week at my home in Nashville, TN & on a recent trip to NYC. I don’t know why but it seems like my purchase of new Leica gear is always accompanied by a trip to NYC, not on purpose, but I’m not complaining….

I personally cannot stand DSLR’s and they almost ruin photography for me as an experience. I’ve owned a D800 for my digital setup for the last 8 or so months and I frankly hate the camera. Not because it isn’t a good camera, it’s truly a fantastic sensor and perfect suitable to take good photos but I hate it. I hate it because its easy. I hate it because its big and bulky. I hate the way people react to it when I point it in their face. I honestly cannot wait to sell and be rid of it. End rant. I consider myself a film shooter, it’s what I know and have always been able to get the best results out of. Up until recently Medium Format was my favorite format to shoot because the resolution and detail that you can get from it is fantastic and in my opinion, lenses today just don’t have the look and pop like a Hasselblad or Pentax 67. But the Leica Summilux has that look. It has that pop and glow and sharpness, I knew that even when I shot 35mm with it…

But on to the 240. Wow. So a camera with a sensor like the d800 with none of the things I hated about the M9 but everything I loved? Yes please, sign me up. I’m not a pixel peeper or worry to heavily about how each individual digital camera performs on paper. Thats why I love this site and the reviews on here because they don’t pull a “ken rockwell” and analyze with graphs and pie charts. It’s all about the images, nothing else matters, if it looks good, then it looks good. I have been nothing short of amazed about how much I like “digital” files now. I feel like it’s almost blasphemous for me to say but I finally think I’ve found a digital camera that I like as much or equally to film. Thats a big statement and I think the 240 deserves all the credit. It’s wonderful to use. Its quick, responsive, quiet, the battery lasts forever, the files look gorgeous and have so much detail and pop, and with a little tweaking they look spectacular.

I loved shooting with the camera so much I never felt the need to pull out the film camera I brought with me. I wanted to test myself to see if it gave me the same satisfaction and it definitely did. It’s a rangefinder, it’s not something most people can pick up and understand. It takes practice and effort in deliberation to get the photos you want. you can shoot off the hip like you can with an autofocus camera at some guy on the subway and hope he doesn’t notice, you’ve got to get in his face, knowingly point a camera at him and take his picture hoping he doesn’t promptly beat you up afterwards. I love that. I think effort and getting closer to things with always trump autofocus and a zoom lens any day. I enjoyed shooting with it so much that I’m going to sell a few of my film systems to afford a Summilux 35mm ASPH v1. A lens I played with at B&H and really loved. (I also tried the FLE and didn’t love it. Aside from price I felt like the v1 had the same look as my 50lux and the FLE looked much harsher, to each his own…)

To sum this write up…up? I’ll say that for those of you who liked the M9, you’d love this camera, all the kinks have been worked out. Trust me. My only annoyances with it at first were WB issues (fixed with latest firmware) and the dumb M button. Just let me program it to be some other button please. I don’t want to auto shoot video. Ever. Actually, it would be hugely awesome if it was a temporary spot meter button… just press and you meter the rangefinder patch only. Are you listening Leica???

And for those of you who I’m sure will ask. I’ll never stop shooting film… but I might shoot it less now…

Anyway, I hope you all like the images with follow this post.

For all the tech-heads out there here are some details:

-Leica M240 w/ Summilux 50mm ASPH

-Processed in Lightroom 5

-VSCO film presets. Usually Portra 800HC/400 or Tri-X 400++ or Ilford Delta 3200

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