Mar 302015
 

The Voigtlander 15 f/4.5 III – Great on the Leica M 240 and Sony A7 series! 

Old version on the left, new on the right!

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I have been testing the brand spanking new Voigtlander 15 f/4.5 Version III lens on the Sony A7II and the Leica M 240 and have only good things to report back. The new V3 can now be used on a Leica M without ANY color issues whatsoever. It is a small, sharp, versatile wide-angle for your M that will not set you back $3k+. The new 15 f/4.5 III is $750 with free next day shipping at CameraQuest.com and below are just a few test shots on the Leica M 240 and Sony A7II. I will eventually write a full review of this lens but for now, I have too much on my plate as it is (New Sony 28 f/2, Sony 35 1.4, two cases, new bags, Leica M-P 240 Safari Edition and more). Just wanted to let everyone know this lens is finally good on digital full frame!

Take it from me, the new 15 4.5 III is a winner on the A7 series AND Leica M series. No issues and a true ultra wide 15mm ;)

You can buy it HERE at Cameraquest, or B&H Photo HERE.

Below are samples from the new Voigtlander 15 f/4.5 III on the Leica M 240 and the Sony A7II

1st up, the Leica M test shots. Notice no color edges or problems. Click ’em for larger!

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And a few on the A7II with the Voigtlander Close Focus M to E adapter (Get it HERE)

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Mar 242015
 

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LENS BATTLE: CANON  vs LEICA 

by Paul Bartholomew

Dear Steve

This is my second user report I’ve written for your great site but this one is quite different from my last one (An Englishman in New York).

I’ve been a Canon user for years having had a 5DMK II, a 7DMK I and the camera I shot for part of this review the excellent Canon 5D MKIII. I have a little Olympus E-PL 1 and a Canon G11 too but my pride and joy is my Leica M240. That camera is the second M I have owned having upgraded from an M9 about 18 months ago. And what an upgrade! I really can’t understand those who prefer the M9, the colours, the noise, the dynamic range – all much better on the M240 to my mind, with live view to boot with EVF support (this is important for this article).

I’m not exaggerating when I say the Leica M240 is the camera I had hoped the M9 would have been, but whenever I shot with the M9 I found the images a little muddy in their tones – like the files were missing some information – not so with the M240.

After bumping along happily with both the 5D MKIII and the Leica M240, I realised the Canon was mostly staying in its foam-lined drawer in my study, I preferred to shoot with the M240. This wasn’t something that had happened with the M9 – the 5D MKIII gave me better images, but not so when compared to the M240. So, I began to wonder whether I actually needed the 5D MKIII… Of course letting go of the body was one thing but letting go of the lenses was quite another. At this point in time I owned a 300mm f/2.8L (easy to get rid of, I seldom shoot long), a 24-105 f/4L – a nice enough lens but not one that I actually used that much, a 16-35mm f/2.8L II – a lens I was nervous to lose (the widest I had for the Leica was 28mm) and a 85mm f/1.2L II – a gem of a lens that I loved. These two lenses were the anchor of my Canon system – they were preventing me from moving on.

However, when I sat down and worked out how much I would get by selling the Canon kit new possibilities opened up, but first I needed to see whether I could fill the niches of my Canon anchor lenses with a couple of Leica compatible lenses. Here’s what I bought: For the wide end a Voigtlander 21mm f/1.9 and for the fast portrait niche a Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R (with a Novoflex R to M adaptor) – my EVF for my little Olympus would be put to good use! These two lenses complemented my existing M lenses – a Zeiss 28mm f/2.8, a Jupiter 35mm f/2.8, a Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 (calibrated to f/1.5) and a Jupiter 85mm f/2. To be honest, I never really used the Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 that much – too long for street work and for portraits I found it to have too much contrast for my taste.

Once I’d secured the lenses I thought I would do a comparison shoot before I made a decision whether I could/should divest myself of the Canon kit (although by this point the 300mm had already gone). So, I booked a model that I’d worked with on previous occasions and set to work. Some notes first though… I’d never done a lens test before so apologies for any errors in the process I may have made, also – the M240 doesn’t record lens data from my non-coded lenses and estimates the aperture based on the exposure settings. In some of the pictures my model Holly is holding up fingers to help me record the aperture I was shooting at.

Long end first – the Canon 16-35 f/2.8L II @ f/2.8 at 21mm (TOP) vs the Voigtlander 21mm @ f/2.8 (Bottom) – click images for larger!

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Of course with all of the camera and lens changes, I forgot to let Holly know that the Canon would collect its own data! Indeed the EXIF data let me know that I was actually at 22mm, not 21mm.

I don’t think there is that much in it in terms of sharpness but the Canon lens shows less divergence of vertical. Nonetheless I prefer the tones from the Leica. I also think more shadow detail is captured, look at the purple sofa and Holly’s dress in the Leica/Voigt. combination. Unsurprisingly, both lenses show some chromatic aberration in the window frame.

At f/5.6 both lenses now have the chromatic aberration broadly under control:

Top is Canon, bottom is Voigtlander. Click images for larger!

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Differences in colour balance / colour rendering aside, the Leica/Voigt. combination seems to hold much more detail now and is much sharper at the edges of the frame, look at the green Tibetan chair-bed bottom left.

Peripheral sharpness picks up on the Canon at f/8 (TOP) but it is still outperformed by the Voigtlander (BOTTOM):

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This was enough to convince me that despite the 16mm to 21mm wide end variance, the Leica and Voigtlander would look after me. And…. The Voigtlander could shoot at f/1.9:

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I then went a little longer and compared the mid-range of the Canon with my Zeiss 28mm f/2.8. First, wide open. TOP is CANON, bottom is ZEISS, both at f/2.8:

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Here, it’s a mixed picture, more chromatic aberration in the window frame with the Canon but it is giving better shadow detail (look at the front of the cabinet) and it is sharper in the peripheries of the frame. The Zeiss is sharper in the middle and could be said to have greater contrast (the flip side of the lower shadow detail). I prefer the colours with the Leica/Zeiss combo though.

At f/5.6, the Canon looks really good, the chromatic aberration is under control , central sharpness is higher too. Slight exposure differences aside, the Canon is still showing less contrast than the Zeiss – which is now showing sharpness to rival the Canon right across the frame.

At f/8, it’s really only the higher contrast of the Zeiss that is separating them:

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So, after all that I felt I was OK at medium wide – especially give the relative sizes of the two setups!

Just for fun, I thought I’d compare the long end of the Canon 16-35mm with my diminutive vintage Soviet – the Jupiter 35mm f/2.8 – I was not expecting comparable images and the differences were clear at f/2.8. Canon on top, Jupiter and M on the bottom:

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The Canon, even wide open at the long end of its zoom range, seems to control chromatic aberration well and is offering significantly more contrast than when zoomed out. It’s pretty sharp right across the frame too. The Jupiter is another story altogether, unable to control the bright window light, the veiling flare lowers the contrast significantly and although centre sharpness is at least as high as with the Canon, it drops off drastically as we move away from the centre. Look at the candle on the left and even Holly’s feet on the right. I do like that vintage look though, it’s why I bought the lens.

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As shown above, at f/5.6 there’s little to complain about with the Canon and it is significantly sharper than the Jupiter everywhere, including in the centre of the frame. And although contrast and sharpness is better with the Jupiter than it was at f/2.8 it can’t keep up with the Canon. This is the same for f/8 too, as shown below. Canon is the 1st image, the Jupiter is the 2nd.

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Of course, the Jupiter was never going to be the equivalent of the Canon, but it is a fun little lens to have nonetheless. However, I may need to get myself a higher fidelity M lens if I want to shoot with precision at that focal length.

Now for what I think is probably the main event of this head-to-head review – a comparison of portrait lenses. Mainly, it’s about comparing the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II with the Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R. But, I’m going to throw in the Soviet 85mm f/2 for good measure too.

First of all, at the widest common aperture of f/2, they really are quite different. The Canon is sharp and exhibits high contrast – it is crisp, as one might expect. But when you cast your eye from that image to the clearly softer and lower contrast Leica image, the Canon begins to look a little ‘crunchy’ – I wonder if others would agree? Then comes the Jupiter, like its 35mm cousin it is low in contrast, but nonetheless it does appear to be pretty sharp:

TOP: Canon 85 L at f/2, MIDDLE: Leica R 80mm at f/2, BOTTOM: Jupiter 85 at f/2

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At f/2.8 things aren’t particularly changed – same differences, perhaps just a little less extreme:

Canon, then Leica, then Jupiter

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Of course, one really buys these lenses to shoot wide open – we’ve seen the Jupiter wide open but what about the other two? Firstly, both at f/1.4:

TOP: CANON – BOTTOM: LEICA

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I don’t believe the Canon is any sharper now – look at Holly’s eyes on both. The Canon still has more contrast, but I am struck by the sophistication of the Leica image – sharp and soft and the same time. Also, look at the decoration on the wall and the edge of the sunlight, the Canon is exhibiting some chromatic aberration. OK, let’s see the Canon at f/1.2 – that aperture is the reason for buying this lens after all:

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To me, on the eyes – this looks a bit sharper that the f/1.4 shot. I was shooting from a tripod but perhaps this is just the difference between hitting the eyeball with the focus point rather than the eyelashes. I just don’t know – although Holly’s mouth is sharper too.

All this out of camera comparison is a bit artificial though isn’t it? I’m never going to shoot models (or any portraits for that matter) without editing – I pretty much edit everything. So, given that – if I had to work on the three wide open images from each lens (I pretty much always shoot portraits wide open), what do I get? I’ve deliberately over-edited a little – particularly the eyes (using a detail extractor) because I wanted to see what information was there to be had and to share it with you. They are all edited slightly differently but with the aim of them bringing the best out of the lenses while getting them to a fairly similar end point:

1st CANON, 2nd LEICA, 3rd JUPITER – all wide open

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I found the results surprising. The ‘crunchiness’ of the Canon (something I’d have never attributed to it prior to putting it against the Leica) was difficult to overcome. Transitions between light and shade seemed to accentuate really easily in the edit and I found the highlights difficult to control too (perhaps related to the sensor rather than the lens). The Leica on the other hand is, I think, quite beautiful – I’ve been able to reveal the sharpness of the lens (look at the eyes) but the softness and smoothness puts the Canon to shame – at least in my view. Then there’s the Jupiter – a dark horse: with a careful edit, it performs really well. Given that it cost me less than 5% of either the Canon (new) or Leica (used) that’s remarkable. I should say I used the EVF for both the Jupiter and the Leica. The Leica isn’t coupled so that was a must, but my Jupiter was designed for another camera and can be a bit focus shifted on an M.

For me the quality of the Leica has surprised me and shows that sharpness on its own can leave you wanting. This test allowed me to be happy to let the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II go, and with it the 5D III and the other lenses too. That’s allowed me to buy a Sony A7 II, a Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8, a Voigtlander close focus M to E adaptor and a Canon 50mm f/0.95 rangefinder coupled lens, which I will get back in a few days when its conversion to M mount is done. I’ve also bought a dinky Nippon Kogaku (Nikkor) 5cm f/1.4 SC for a bit of fun after having let my Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar go too. I’m finding I’m preferring a more classic low contrast look nowadays. So with those bits of kit and some LTM to M adapter rings, I can use all but the Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8 on both cameras and I’ve kept some autofocus capability for shooting moving targets too. Additionally, I think the A7 II with its in-body stabilisation might be useful for some low light work when the need calls.

Altogether I feel I have gained flexibility from making the change.

A final word on the Leica 80mm f/1.4 though… It might not stay. I love how it looks, I’ve included a couple of real (non-test) shots below, but as an R lens it is a bit of a pain to use. Shooting it wide open requires precise focus and it doesn’t exhibit enough contrast for focus peaking to be effective so focusing through the EVF (it can’t be done any other way) needs to be done in zoom. Since there is no coupling, this requires the button on the front of the camera to be pressed, the eyes located, precise focus found (without peaking), the button pressed again to de-zoom, and the frame recomposed. By which time your subject is frustrated. As am I.

So there you have it, a long and rambling lens comparison posting that started out as an exercise for me to inform myself. I hope sharing it will be of interest to others too. I’m not sure how many comparisons between those particular portrait lenses are out there – I haven’t come across any.

At the moment then, I’m really looking forward to getting the 0.95 Canon back, something I wouldn’t have been able to justify buying without selling on the Canon SLR kit and I do feel broadly happy with the lenses I have. I may yet get a stronger 35mm and I may yet swap out the Leica R too.

So, thanks for reading and I’ll leave you with a couple of shots that I made with the 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R. After all, I may not be keeping it for long…

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I hope this reads alright Steve. I’ll send the images on in following emails – it might take two or three.

I hope you will be able to let me know whether you think it is suitable – I hope it is!

Cheers

Paul

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From Steve: As always, for your Leica needs I recommend Ken Hanson, PopFlash.com and LeicaStoreMiami.com

Feb 202015
 

28 images from the A7s, A7II, E-M1, E-M5II, Fuji X-T1, Fuji X100T, and M 240

Hello to all and HAPPY FRIDAY! After I posted my recent E-M5II Camera review (see it HERE) many have been asking me THIS question:

“NOW I AM CONFUSED! What camera do I buy? The E-M1, E-M5Ii, A7II, M 240 or Fuji?!?!

Yes, I get these questions daily and I never give a definite answer as this choice is personal. That would be like asking “what car should I buy” or “which house should I get”? A camera is a personal choice and the reason these reviews are written is so all of you can read and make an informed decision. I understand how hard it is, believe me. But just know that any of these cameras mentioned are truly fantastic and can get the job done. If you are in love with PHOTOGRAPHY and the art of making memories and making art, ANY of these will do.

If you are a pixel peeper it is best to go for something super high res like a Sony A7r as that will give you something to zoom in on and measurbate to. Me, I prefer real photography and making memories as I go on this long journey that we call life. A camera, to me, is made to capture those moments we lose and those memories that in 10-20 years will be very foggy for our aging brains. Looking back at images remind us of the many good times, the family, the friends, the sad times and the exciting times. THIS is what it is all about for ME. I do not pixel peep, I am against it. I occasionally will post crops just to show those who love that sort of thing how much detail we can get but overall it does not matter. At all.

Any of the cameras below can make LARGE prints (I have a 20X30 from E-m1, it is gorgeous. I have larger from my A7II, beautiful). So remember, ANY camera will get you the memories you want to capture but the main difference between them is HOW YOU GET there!

Yes, some cameras make it a joy to get your memories while others make it a pain. Some will get you there with amazing technology and others with their simplistic charm. Some will offer you bold looking files and others a more natural looking file. Some will offer you tools to help you (such as 5 Axis IS or a nice large EVF) while others make it a challenge (Leica M RF).

Below I have chosen 7 images from the A7 and A7II, Olympus E-M1 and Em5II, Fuji X-T1/X100t and the Leica M 240 so you guys can see in one place, the differences between full frame, APS-C and Micro 4/3. Depth of field will be different, color will be different and the overall vibe will be manufacture specific. I have no secrets here on this blog and I always tell it like it is..FOR ME and MY tastes. Not everyone will agree. But enjoy as I share my thoughts on these different mirrorless systems.

SONY A7s and A7II

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The Sony A7 series appeared with a bang when the A7 and A7r were announced. Full frame small mirrorless cameras that performed amazingly well with rich files, rich color and decent usability. While slow in Auto focus and a bit clunky with the early models, the newer A7s and A7II improved things such as AF speed and accuracy, high ISO capability and in the case of the A7s, amazing capabilities with Leica M glass. I love the A7s and A7II with a preference to the new A7II for its better build, 5 Axis IS, and gorgeous IQ (for me, the best of the A7 series IQ). If you want that full frame creamy look with massive shallow depth of field, Full Frame is where it is at. APS-C or Micro 4/3 can not do it to the level of full frame.

If you want the most dynamic range, usually a full frame sensor will give it to you as well. On the other hand, shooting fast lenses on full frame can be difficult as the Depth of Field can be so slim and narrow many times people misfocus. But when you nail it, it can be gorgeous.

The Sony system is still somewhat new, less than 2 years old yet there are many lenses out for the system already, and me, I like to use Leica M glass and old exotic lenses with my Sony’s.

CLICK all images for larger and much better view

The A7II and Leica Noctilux at 0.95

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ISO 32,000 with the A7s – Mitakon 50 0.95

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The A7s – click the images for moire detailed versions! What you see here is NOT the best way to view them. You must click them!

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The Sony A7s and 55 1.8

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A7s again..

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A7II and Noctilux..and amazing combo

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An OOC JPEG at ISO 8000 using the 35 2.8 Zeiss lens

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The Sony A7II represents the best of the Sony A7 line for me. It has all you need to create beautiful rich files. Wether you use native lenses or Leica M glass or old vintage rangefinder lenses, this is the camera that can handle it. The A7s is the king of the night, with amazing low light and high ISO abilities. The A7II can not come close to this ISO performance but IMO beats the A7s in overall IQ. The A7 series is doing VERY well for Sony, above expectations so this is good and can not wait to see what they come out with next.

Fuji X-T1 and X100T

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Ahhh, Fuji. Many love Fuji and they have some hardcore fans, that is for sure! Me, I like Fuji. I used to LOVE Fuji back in the days of the S5 pro and original X100. Today I feel they went a bit backwards with the X Trans sensor. I just do not like it as much as the original sensor from the X100. When I look at any Fuji images (not just mine) they have a look to them from the X Trans that while nice, is not my preferred look. In fact, its at the bottom of the heap for me. There is something un-natural about the files for my tastes but even with that said, this is a personal thing and what I may dislike, someone else may love to death.

Many love Fuji and that can not be denied. They sell well and they do “Fuji Color” very well. Where it falls flat for me is true low light ability. The files get “dirty” and “mushy” in low light and this is why all of the really great Fuji images in recent years were shot in amazing light. Give the X Trans amazing light and it will reward you. Give it dull or low light and it will not. For me, the Sony files and the Olympus and Leica files below beat the Fuji when it comes to overall IQ.

Body wise, the X-T1 is fantastic. Its a wonderful body but still compared to the A7II, E-M1, and M 240 it feels the lowest quality of build. It is not bad in build, but when you compare side by side with the competition, it feels a bit lacking and hollow. Much better than previous Fuji bodies though. Fuji has come a long way since the X-Pro 1. Now they have much faster AF, world class EVF (best there is), nice external controls for all of your needs and great usability. If Fuji still used the old X100 sensor I would own an X-T1 :) That X-T1 above looks AMAZING doesn’t it?

Typical Fuji look in normal light..

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I always have issues with the X-Trans blowing highlight, even if using the extended DR modes (which make the image look very flat imo) – Here the bird is exposed correctly but the highlights have blown. There are many examples of this and i never have this issue with my other cameras. Nothing I did could save the blown out highlights here or in other X-T1 images. 

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The good thing about Fuji is they support their cameras NON STOP. Firmware releases are regular and they fix bugs that pop up, improve AF speed and do good things AFTER you buy the camera. They are improving their bodies non stop as well, and the X-T1 is a winning body without question and I am sure they will keep coming out with better and better cameras. One of these days I will buy myself a Fuji :)

Olympus E-M1 and E-M5II

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To me, this system is so mature and so well executed today that these are some of the best cameras you can buy today, regardless of mirrorless or DSLR. There are a thousand reasons for this from size, build, pro level features, freeze, shock, weatherproof…huge EVF, super fast AF, amazing 5 Axis (best in the world), awesome video in the new 5II as well as the rich files with superb color richness as well. Some of my favorite images of my life were shot on 4/3 and Micro 4/3 systems and I place this just behind the Sony A7II and Leica M for IQ.

Today, the E-M5II and E-M1 meet or exceed nearly all APS-C cameras for build, speed, features, capabilities, color and yes IQ. It can not beat a full frame model for Dynamic Range, Details or high ISO but it holds its own and then some for APS-C and for me, the E-M1 is probably the best camera body I have used, ever. I am talking about the whole package… build, features, speed, controls, versatility, what is possible with them, etc. As I said, IQ is just behind the full frame models. It really is.

Even so, Olympus is doing great things and they are the inventors of Live View, Dust Cleaning in camera, 5 Axis IS, and more. Good to see them still innovating. I also feel the best lenses next to Leica M are right here for Micro 4/3, from the Nocticron to the 75 1.8 to the 40-150 to the 12mm f/2 to the f/0.95 Voigtlanders. So many choices.

Shot with the 17 1.8 at 1.8. Amazing lens with just the right amount of detail and tones.

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The 40-150 – the color here is WOW. JPEG. The way I brought this out is by using SPOT metering. 

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The 12-40 f/2.8 pro zoom. One of the best standard zooms I have used. 

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The 17 1.8 again, smooth, sharp and wonderful bokeh.

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Nocticron goodness…f/1.2

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The Voigtlander 25 0.95 at 0.95 – THIS is a special lens. 

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Olympus have created quite the tool for the PHOTOGRAPHER who puts his priorities at capturing the image, the moment, the memories. The Af doesn’t let you down, the controls are spot on and the build is the best of the lot. Lens choice is plentiful and its only weakness is that it will not give you full frame shallow depth of field (but neither will APS-C). For me, the E-M1 and E-M5II beats most APS-C camera as a whole, without hesitation, even factoring in size. Now there are some great bodies by Panasonic as well but for me, they do not have what it takes to take on Olympus’s E-M1 and E-M5II.

Leica M 240

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Ahhh, the system I loved and used for many years, ever since the film M7. I have had an M ever since from the M8 to M9 to MP (film) to M9P to M-P 240 to Monochrom. I have had them all and loved them all. For me, this is the pinnacle of simplicity. Real photography. Not much in the way of features but this is how it should be with an M. Just you, the camera, and the subject. Nothing to worry about  – just focus, set your aperture/exposure and shoot.

The Leica M is an all time favorite of mine, hands down. The only issues today is with cost. Buying an M 240 and 50 APO will set you back $15,000. Buy a used M and used Voigtlander lens and it will still set you back $6k. You have to be majorly dedicated and have a nice padded bank account to jump in today,  so not everyone can.

Today with cameras like the Sony A7II leica seems to be losing some ground. Back in the M9 days they ruled the roost as there was nothing quite like the M9 in use or in age quality. Today, there are  a 1-2 mirrorless cameras that meet or exceed the M 240 image quality and color and for much less money. While you will never get the experience of the M from a Sony, Fuji or Olympus and you will never get that true pride of ownership with anything else (once you feel and shoot with an M it is tough to go to anything else) you will get IQ that can beat it from other cameras. Today Leica is not “the best” in IQ but they are “the best” in lenses, experience, build, and feel AND simplicity. The M lenses are the best in the world IMO and they are SMALL and built like mini tanks.

I love Leica, and I love the M 240. Period. It’s has some magic in the bloodlines but today it is getting harder to justify unless you REALLY only love RF shooting and have a big fat bank account.

The M with the 50 APO

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The M with a Voigtlander 50 1.5

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The M with a 90 Elmarit

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50 APO again

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Noctilux

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35 Cron

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As I look back at these random images I chose for this article I study them and not only am I looking at the file quality and character but I am remembering the times I had shooting those images and according to my memory, the most fun I had shooting was with the Leica M, hands down. Then it would be the E-M1 and E-M5II, then the Sony A7II and A7s and then the Fuji. All have the capability to capture your frames in high quality but the one you choose will be part of your personal journey. The one that speaks to YOU, not ME. So next time you get ready to send an email asking “What should I buy” – ask yourself this question and go with you 1st gut instinct. That is usually the correct choice :)

You can see my full reviews of the cameras listed above:

Sony A7IISony A7s Fuji X-T1Fuji X100T Olympus E-M1Olympus E-M5IILeica M 240

Feb 022015
 

Why I prefer the Leica M 240 over the M9/M-E

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(ATTN: I wrote this while on a flight and apparently when I grabbed the images from other areas of this site, it grabbed low res versions of them which is why they look pixelated and “off”. I will fix this when I have time, but am currently traveling. To see M 240 images, click here)

With today’s post from Photographs By Peter causing some conversation, I wanted to chime in with why I personally much prefer the Leica M 240 (my review) over the M9, but hey, this is my personal opinion for my tastes. For some enthusiasts out there (Like Peter), they are wanting Leica to create an M 240 style body with a CCD sensor. In my opinion, this will never happen, as the sensor for the next M is already in development, or at least it better be (and I would wager $20,000 that it is not CCD)! But with hundreds wanting a new M with CCD, I feel if Leica did this they would lose money, in a big time way, and here is why…

A new M body with a new CCD sensor would spell disaster for Leica. First, ISO would be crippled. In a world where cameras of today have ASTOUNDING performance in almost any light, and the cost is  1/10th that of a Leica M or M-E, well, Leica would get trashed, smashed, bashed and the camera would maybe sell 2-300 bodies but Leica is not interested in selling hundreds of bodies. They need to sell THOUSANDS of bodies and if they released a new M with CCD and something like a Micro 4/3 Olympus E-M1 beat it for ISO performance, then we would have a problem, and it would be disastrous for Leica.

Sure, the hardcore enthusiasts WANT this but it is an unrealistic WANT. Leica needs more than a few hundred enthusiasts to BUY into a new M, and let’s face it..if 2000 signed a petition saying they want a CCD, in reality only 10% of those would actually buy one and spend the money on it.

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I have done many side by sides with the Leica M 240 and old M9 and M-E and in EVERY single case I strongly preferred the M 240 files for color, depth, DR and well, just about everything, but to be honest, the difference is minimal when each file os processed correctly from RAW. The old M9 files has a tad more “snap” but it loses out in many other ways…well, all other ways. There are serious limitations to CCD sensors and me, I do not want to go back to that after being spoiled by cameras such as the Leica M, Sony A7s, Sony A7II, Olympus E-M1 and so on.

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Some who shot the M9 for 3+ years (myself included) moved to the M 240 and were disappointed immediately (My 1st day with the 240 was disappointment), but there is a reason for that. The files. When shooting the M 240 in RAW the workflow is 100% different fromwhat you would use with the M9. Many were using their tried and true workflow from the M9 on the M 240 and it was not jiving. It took me 2-4 weeks to really get down with the M 240 files, but once that happened, there was no going back for me.

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First things first, the body..no contest. Yes, it is a little thicker but it gives us SO MUCH more than the M9 body did in regards to function. AMAZING best of class battery life. Quieter shutter. Much nicer LCD and RF VF. Much nicer feeling construction and controls. Live view (though this needs improving big time) and a host of other features that made the new M body 100X better IMO.

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Then the files..rich, meaty, full, organic and full of Dynamic Range and soft color transitions. No more harsh blown highlights or offensive noise when shooting at ISO 800 or even 1600. Sure, they look more like full frame Nikon or Canon files (not really like either due to color signature) but they are easier to work with and rewards with more of everything. There is a reason EVERY camera manufacturer has stepped away from CCD. When the M9 was hot and THE IT camera, so many were saying “Leica needs a CMOS sensor”!!

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For me, the M 240 was and is a beautiful camera capable of so much more than the M9 and I will 100% predict that there will never be a full production M with a CCD sensor again. They may continue the M-E but a new M 240 with a CCD would eliminate so many buyers due to limitations. Leica would lose, and they do not like to lose.

Today, in 2015, sensor technology is still being pushed and we are not even close to what CAN be accomplished, but we will soon start to see some advanced sensors coming down the road for advanced cameras. For Leica to go back to the old CCD sensor would be “business suicide” as they are not in business to lose money, they want to make money. They could do a “Limited Edition CCD M” but that would mean a $15,000 camera.

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I “get it” that there are some enthusiasts who love their M9 CCD sensors, and I have massive respect for Peter as I feel he is one UBER talented photographer who really knows how to capture life, soul, emotion and those precious things many of us just do not “see” when looking through the camera. He is a talented guy who could use ANY camera and get results, but yet he loves his CCD M9. That says a lot right there and tells me that I am not “right”, I am just stating my “personal opinion” which is based on MY prefs, not everyones.

Another great friend of mine, Ashwin Rao, also loves his CCD sensors. So to be clear, what I am writing here is just opinion…my personal tastes. When I have done side by sides with the M and M9 at base ISO, the differences are minimal. More DR with the M, different color signature with the M and a teeny less “bite” which means the M9 puts out more contrast by default.

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What I Feel Leica Needs in 2015 and beyond…

In 2014 and 2015 other camera companies have been creeping into Leica’s territory. By that I mean SONY. When we talk of FULL FRAME sensors in a smaller mirror less body then we have to look at Sony. The sensors they use in the A7, A7II and A7s are phenomenal, and can better the M 240 in just about all areas besides the M color signature, which is unique with the M9 (more slide film like) and M 240 (more print film like). See my huge Sony A7II review here.

Leica needs a FIRECRACKER of a sensor for the next M (which should be a 2016 camera going by their timeline)  – they need ISO up to 12,800 USABLE. They need NOT more MP but to refine the color and quality that they started with the M 240. If they can get a super sensor for the next M as well as 100% improve the live view AND put in a hybrid EVF (RF and EVF with the flick of a switch) then they will have a hit.

If they do anything LESS they will not, and I fear for their future.

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It’s funny…I love my A7s and A7II so so much that after using them non stop since each one was launched I stopped using my Leica M. I still use the M lenses on the Sony bodies but the M ended up sitting there being lonely.

I sold my M a month ago or so.

Do I regret that? I can honestly say, YES I do! I miss my M. I have been using them since the M7 and have never been without one during those years.

So for me, I possibly see another M-P in my future and even if I use the Sony’s more, it would be great to have the M again for those days when I get the rangefinder itch.

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Again, not taking away anything from CCD fans, but the reality is that in every single comparison between an M9 and M 240 file, the differences in “look” were minimal. The differences in ISO tests were not so minimal. Comes down to the M9 and ME having more contrast, less DR and this is where we get the extra “Bite”.

The M8, M-E, M9 and M 240 are all fantastic rangefinder cameras. Are the the best you can get today? No, e can get better for much less, but what we can not get is the Leica M experience in ANY other digital camera, period. For me, experience is part of the process just as much as getting the quality.

Only time will tell but if you want to sign the petition to bring back CCD, click here to go to Peter’s site and PUT YOUR NAME DOWN! I say it will never happen, but I could be wrong as anything is possible in life. ;)  Also, Leica TAKE A LOOK AT IT!

All images above are from the M 240 except for one, which is from the M9.

Steve

Jan 152015
 

2014 – My year with Leica

By Jason Boucher

Long ago I read Mike Johnston’s post on The Online Photographer about a year with Leica and it would make you a better photographer. I wanted to jump in at the time, but at that time couldn’t imagine spending that much on an “old” camera and it would force me to buy a new lens. I ended up buying a used Bessa as well as a used Voigtlander lens. While the original article suggested to commit fully, I committed to at least 1 roll of film per month. In that year I relearned so much about photography. It slowed me down. It made me intentional in my shooting. It also was my 1st experience with a rangefinder and frankly, the focusing became second nature and something I preferred over the split prism I grew up with. I was happy with my Bessa and my m43 digital and DSLR autofocus kits. That year with film and my Bessa really did help me.

A couple of years ago, things changed for me. I took a new job where I was not providing social content and digital image assets to the company I work for. This freed me a bit from photography as work. I could do photography for me and for me only. Coincidentally at the same time, my friend at my local camera store, National Camera Exchange, called me one day and said they got a used M9 in mint condition. I went in and held it in my hands. Wow. It was love and lust at first sight. But…cash was still a problem and I left instead with a used M8. Figuring I could give it a try and not loose much money. I had 1 M -mount lens at the time, a Zeiss 35 f2.8, I attached it and shot it almost exclusively for a couple of months.

Here are a few shots from my summer vacation and family visit in North Dakota with the M8

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It was a lovely set up and gave me a few images that I truly cherish. That old M8 has some quirky but special mojo. To be honest, it is still my favorite black and white, digital camera of all time and one day hope to own one alongside my newer Leica digital M camera. That missing IR filter does something amazing to skin and skin tones. But…I just could not handle the noise of shutter as well as the inability, at least with my single lens I owned, to shoot at higher ISO’s and in lower light, something I do a lot. So I put it away and shot it on special occasion.

About mid way through 2014, I took the M8 on a trip again and was reminded of both the experience and the glorious output. So…I sold everything else I owned including my new Fuji XT1 as well as the M8 and came home with a used M240. Over the course of the fall I slowly added some used M mount glass. I know much has been written about the M240 and how some folks prefer the M9 CCD sensor. I had some experience with the CCD with the M8 and in certain instances do prefer it, the overall shooting experience, capability as well as the higher ISO capabilities make the M240 an easy and preferred choice for me. It just works.

M 240 Images…

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My Leica M240 has become an extension of my hand as well as the most amazing creative tool I have ever used. I am no professional and shoot only for myself, but I am pleased with and believe the camera has in fact been a driving factor in changing my personal style and satisfaction with photography. I know that for each of us that we all respond uniquely to gear and many feel that Leica’s are a bunch of hype. I thought that too, but in the end, I feel that it did help me develop, grow and output better images.

So….Even though I really only starting using Leica cameras halfway through 2014, I still consider it my year of Leica.  Hope you enjoy them and my wish to all of you in 2015 is that you find that muse, that tool, that thing that inspires you and helps you develop your craft and art.

Cheers

Jason
www.imaginegnat.com

Dec 112014
 

Japan with Leica M-P 240

By Dan Bar

Hello Steve,

Here i am again hoping sending some more photos from Japan with my Leica M 240 hoping you will like them Japan is a colorful country especially in October and November when all the leaves turn red which is the most wonderful scene to watch. Japan is a great country for photographers as Japanese people seemly love to take photos and be photographed , which is a blessing for street photographers.

I took my Leica MM as well but the beauty of this country simply forces you to shoot color

As for the M 240, I really fell in love with the camera. I  know i was skeptical about it after shooting for so many years with the M9 ( had to sell it in order to buy the M-P 240). but the ease ,the great shutter sound , and the fantastic results with Leica lenses ( 50 LUX, 35 LUX ) made me completely change my mind.

Thank you,

Danny

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Dec 082014
 

The Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon ZM (Leica mount) Lens Review

by Cemal Sagnak

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Many People belief, a Leica Camera needs native Leica lenses, although there are Alternatives by other German Companies like Carl Zeiss with a long optical history in making lenses and Rangefinder cameras. As a passionate Leica Photographer, I always search and look for high quality alternative lenses for my Leica M Typ 240.

One of my favorite lenses is the Carl Zeiss Biogon T* 2/35 ZM, a versatile documentary and Photojournalist lens with outstanding optical performance and my standard Lens on the M.

I was very tempted to read the announcement during the last Photokina in September about a new fast 35mm f/1.4 hoping this can match with my Biogon 35/2 in optical performance but with a fast f1.4 aperture.
I could not be happier when last week my Demo Lens arrived.

My initial impression was extremely good, although the Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is larger (lengths 87,3 49mm Filter, 381gr) vs. the Biogon T* 2/35 ZM (lengths 68mm, Filter size 43mm, 240gr) the finder blockage is still moderate. You get immediately a feel of the build quality, all metal finish, robust and made for the next generation, something I definitely expected from a Carl Zeiss Lens.

The Distagon is build with 10 Elements in 7 groups with and the10 blades can be set in 1/3 steps giving you a good haptic feedback, you can feel comfortably each click on the aperture wheel. The focus wheel is on the right spot, perfectly accessible and smooth in handling, Rotating is not to tight and not to loose, which is important for a fast lens shooting at f/1.4 to achieve precise results.

The lens is equipped with the T* anti-reflective coating to control flare we will see later how good it performs using the Distagon against strong sunlight. The Distagon is made to be used under low light condition or for a clear separation of the subject from the background, don’t be surprised to see many pictures shot at f/1.4.

The Data sheet is promising; with a relative distortion of less than -1% the Distagon beats the Summilux –M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH on paper. Lets see how it performs.

Non-Leica Users need to know that sharpness of a rangefinder lens is relative and depending on the skills and eyesight of the User behind the Finder.

Before I took the Lens out, I did some shots at home on a tripod to see if there is a focus shift or misalignment. One shot through the RF and one with the LCD of the M and no surprise, all was good, as you can see in the crop of the image taken through the RF.

BTW, I tried the EVF of the M240 but I come to the conclusion that I am better and faster with the optical RF and composing is much easier. I turn on the LCD just when I use a 21mm lens to control the frame. I maybe would use the EVF if someone puts me a Noctilux under the Xmas tree and for sure with Leica – R lenses. But coming back to the Distagon…

My first session was taken in my new hometown Cologne, known as the capital of German Photography and this is not because of the Photokina only.  Pictures are DNG files converted into jpg in LR 5.7 I took some random street shots including the Xmas market to get warmed up with the character of the lens.

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The Bicycle shot shows rich and contrasts colors with a nice background blur and a great sharpness on the flowers. I tried similar with people, I am glad my daughters share my passion so they are always great models to try new Gear.
My second opportunity using the Distagon was a fashion shooting with the lovely Dana, who is running a fashion blog and needs regular shots of her in the seasons dress-up.

A 35mm lens is not the first choice for Portraits and People. Still the results were highly satisfying, color and focus are as well. Flare is not always welcome but in this case I used it as an element. Unfortunately Zeiss did not deliver a Lens Hood with this demo unit. I recommend purchasing a hood with the Lens.

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Beside some lens flare, I identified chromatic aberration, which appears when shooting wide open. Nowadays nothing software cant fix and also visible in some of my Summilux pictures. The third part of my Test was the low light capability of the lens, using it in some urban lightning and using it for what it was made for, wide open in low light, I travel much, so taking a tripod with me is a hassle and 100% of my shots outside are handheld. Maybe this is the case for many Leica Users.

This leads me to the Part 3 of my test…. Paris! A perfect Place using a Leica Camera and going for a photo walk along the river Seine and visiting places where Grandmasters of Photography took many iconic pictures. The Zeiss Distagon performs well wide open and paired with the great ISO abilities and Dynamic range of the M240, you will be able to get extraordinary results shooting this combo in the dark.

Here one Bokehlicious shot from a brigde in Paris.

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After all, I am pretty impressed by this new lens. I have owned the Leica Summilux 35mm ASPH (pre-FLE) and use currently the Biogon 35/2 which are the natural competitors. Before I come to my personal conclusion here is a price overview (Prices in Euro )

LEICA SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH – 4200 Euros
CZ Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM – 2000 Euros
CZ Biogon T* 2/35 ZM – 1050 Euros

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Now my question before I started this lens test: is it worth to pay almost double the price compared to the Biogon 35/2 for one f stop faster? For me it is, not that everybody needs an f1.4 lens but if you like shooting fast lenses, this is the lens, which delivers the image quality sharpness and details starting from f1.4.

Please find below the comparison shot at f2.0 between the Distagon and the Biogon. The Distagon is clearly sharper, I plan some more shots for a detailed comparison. Is the Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM capable to compete with one of the best available lenses the Leica Summilux 35mm ASPH FL?

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Based on my experience with the Summilux , the Distagon is definitely worth to consider and not only because its half the price. Sharpness is on par between both lenses. I would like to do a lens comparison but I assume difference is very small and can be better measured in a LAB test rather then comparing pixel.

35 1.4 Distagon and then a crop

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The Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is announced to be ship at the end of 2014.

You can order the lens HERE at B&H Photo.

Cemal Sagnak

https://cemalsagnak.wordpress.com

Dec 042014
 

Petzval and the Leica M

By Vince Tan

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Hi Steve and Brandon, My name is Vince Tan and  I’ve been a big fan of your site for a few years now.  Like many of your readers, I too suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)  and am constantly looking for  a fix.  I am fortunate enough to have bought some stuff from Steve to fuel my GAS without breaking the bank.  This however is my first time writing about a lens that I got. I have been itching to get the Petzval ever since they did the Kickstarter campaign but just never got to it.  Just recently, I decided to get the lens.  First impression when I opened the box was they really did a great job designing the packaging of this Petzval lens.  It is quite upscale and the included book was a nice touch.  The lens itself is a thing of beauty.  The brass finish of the lens is perfect.  It makes this lens so different from all the rest.  The focusing mechanism looks as if it was from the late 19th century.   The lens is very solid and quite heavy. Even the  front lens cap is made of brass.

*Steve’s Review of the Petzval is HERE*

I immediately mount the lens to my Leica M Type 240 using a Nikon F to Leica M adapter.  Talk about going retro.  The Leica M with the Petzval mounted is really a sight to behold.  Since there is no RF-coupling, I have to use the electronic viewfinder in order to focus properly. One of the main reasons to use a Leica is to be discreet but with this lens mounted to the Leica, forget it.  It is almost like yelling to everyone to look at you.  The Brass finish is just eye-catching.

The screw mechanism for focusing the Petzval was designed when cameras were mounted on a tripod.  It looks cool and retro but using it with a Leica M body was a little different.  I had a hard time getting used to the focusing mechanism of this lens.  The sleek body of the M without the grip makes it  just not easy to hold and focus.  This lens has a short travel for the full focus range,  therefore you have to turn that focusing knob slowly.   My other issue using this lens is with the Leica M’s EVF.  It takes a second or so for the camera to be ready after each shutter actuation.

The Petzval was designed as portrait lens that provide a swirly bokeh when you shoot it wide open.  I find that this kind of bokeh is really subjective.  Some people like it and some don’t.  Looking at the images I took, I would say that I prefer the bokeh of some other lenses better.  I find the bokeh of this lens to be too distracting.  For me, the Canon f0.95, Noctilux or even the 75mm Summilux is more pleasing.  But again, that is all subjective.  This lens is still quite unique and at the current price, it is worth giving it a try.

Regards

Vince Tan

 

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Oct 132014
 

Trying out the Leica M240…once again.

By Dan Bar

For a long time I did not like the new M 240. As I wrote once before,  I did not like the colors and I know I was not the only one. I thought the rear buttons where too close to each other . When i first used it a few months ago my fingers ( I have long slim fingers) kept pushing the wrong ones . Whenever i wanted to look at the pics i just shot, I found myself activating the LV button instead.

But than I read what steve said about the camera, and I spoke with Thorsten Overgaard who said he only uses the M, not even the Leica MM anymore. I certainly appreciate these two photographers so I decided to try the M again.

Now maybe Leica heard the color complaint and changed something about the sensor (From Steve: Nothing was changed with the sensor) as all of a sudden the colors seemed much better to me. They lost their red yellow look I did not like before.
The rear LCD is much better now, and the shutter sound seems quieter (From Steve: nothing was changed with the LCD or the Shutter since the M 240 was released) . I still think the rear buttons are too small and too close to each other but I sure like the camera now and its fantastic capabilities.

Here are a few samples all taken with the 35 Summilux ASPH.

Danny

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Oct 022014
 

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The Leica M: A Working Review

by Sam Stroud – His website can be seen HERE

A few weeks ago I picked up Leica’s M typ 240. In my own research, while looking to buy one, I couldn’t find a lot of reviews from the wedding industry on those who were using it. I wanted to post a little bit of my thoughts about it now that I have had a few weddings under my belt with it.

First let me say, what this wont be. I am not going to talk about the technical details much. As odd as this sounds, I don’t quite care about that. I am not a pixel counter. I knew well in advanced that the quality of the image was going to be fantastic. No surprises there. For me shooting with this camera had to be about a few things;

1. It couldn’t inhibit the process of creating
2. It absolutely had to push me beyond the place I was currently in. I didn’t want to spend money on something that would allow me to just keep doing what I am doing. What’s the point in that?

Those two seem kind of vague I know. But it was important to me that I could get the image I set out to create, and that at the same time I wouldn’t be tied to creating the same kind of work I have been.

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The Basics

The M typ 240 is a 24MP Full Frame, Manual focusing camera with a CMOS sensor. It comes in Black and silver. (I chose black) It also has an optical view finder that is easily used to frame and compose your subjects. There are a lot of other really neat technical details that I honestly couldn’t care any less about. Oooh wait… it has a movie mode.

There aren’t a lot of features to brag about. I think it is purely a digital rangefinder. No frills. It wont shoot 100 frames per second and it wont HDR an image for you. Looking through the viewfinder is about one thing and one thing only. Composing, framing and taking the shot. There IS a red dot above the lens mount that reads “Leica”. So there is that.

Using It For Work

Focusing

I don’t think there is any question you could buy this camera and without feeling any pressure to get anything right, could go and shoot some street photography and be really pleased. But for me, in my work, there is a certain level of pressure not to miss anything. With that pressure, for me, comes the absolute need to know my camera. To know how everything works together. And to be honest I struggled with it at first. And that has nothing to do with any kind of limitation of the M. It has everything to do with my current system and setup. I could legitimately close my eyes and in a matter of seconds set my MK3 to be ready to shoot in any situation and get the image I want right away.

That isn’t a bad thing at all. But when you introduce an entirely different system it becomes a problem. So at first I kept it simple. The first wedding I stuck with using it exclusively for the getting ready shots and portraits. Focusing was tough. What can I say? The MK3’s auto focusing system is incredibly fast. I don’t know how it compares to a Nikon and I don’t care. For me, the MK3 AF system works and acquires focus so quickly!

So to move to a completely manual system was again, intimidating. And slow. You want to be precise, and you don’t want to miss. At first, yes I was slow with it. And for me photographing natural expression, including during the bride and groom’s portrait sessions, is paramount. It’s tough to try to be precise without making it, seemingly, awkward. But I knew the more I did it. The faster I would get.
Once you’re used to it there isn’t an issue. Focusing is as easy and as fast as moving the focusing ring clock or counter clock wise. There is a box in the center of the view finder. Find your subject, and align the boxes. That’s it.

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Low Light

Again the MK3 is king. Throw the 50mm 1.2 on and you are ready for any situation. I was really excited to see totally usable images up to 6400. I had read online, some people saying files were only really usable up to 3200. I found that not to be true at all. The beauty of this is that I knew I could totally use the M in darker spaces like during the reception. More specifically during the first dances where really beautiful images can be created.

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Battery Life

I will keep this short… I shot two weddings this past weekend on one charge. The battery is big. The charger is kind of awkward. But it did come with a car charger. So that’s cool. I am not sure I will use it. But regardless, the fact that the battery lasted two weddings is a huge positive.

The Experience

Handling the camera feels amazing. From the moment I picked it up I was impressed. It feels good. I don’t know how to properly describe that. It just feels like a camera should feel. The dials are tight, the size just right, and the sound of the shutter click is quietly sweet. The menus and buttons are minimal to say the least. You can quickly and easily move around once you are familiar with where everything is located. It is a sturdy build and is surprisingly heavy.

Here is where I really care about this camera. Using this camera has been a completely different experience for me. I started out using the Canon 5D, and have been using Canon exclusively. So with that in mind, from the moment I picked up the Leica I was both intimidated and confused. And I am not new to the rangefinder. But first using the M I could tell I was going to have to undo a lot of terrible habits I have picked up over the past 4 years.

The look and feel instantly creates a different atmosphere for creating your work. It also requires from you a level of patience and “slowing down” that I haven’t experienced in quite some time. I think the initial inclination is to fear what you may miss. But when you think about it, if you are comfortable with your gear, and you are required to slow down and pay more attention to whats happening, you will be infinitely more connected to your subject. And if you are connected to your subject you will create better work.

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Conclusion

I have now been asked on so many occasions (so many times that now every time I hear it I want to smash my face with a mallet) one of two things;

1. “Is it worth spending $7500 to shoot with something that is on par with other cheaper systems like the MK3 or D800″

2. “Can you really tell a difference? You can’t really tell a difference.”

Honestly, I cant answer that for you. All I can tell you is that for me it absolutely is worth every single penny. For now at least. And if you are asking for my recommendation, I would tell you unequivocally, yes buy it! And for so many reasons. But mainly because of the experience. There is an experience that exists between me and my subject that is realized when shooting with this camera. And I would of paid double to have it because of that reason alone. Yes, the images are beautiful. Yes the technology behind it is fantastic. And yes there are very very few companies who make a better lens. All of that absolutely matters. But more than anything and above all of that, it is about the simple and beautiful process of creating and nothing else.

Sam Stroud

Aug 122014
 

Copenhagen with the Leica M 240 and 50 APO Summicron

by Howard Shooter

Copenhagen is a difficult city to shoot. The buildings are spotlessly clean and beautiful, the roads are spotlessly clean and beautiful and guess what…the people are spotlessly clean and beautiful.

This presents the street photographer with a problem; no urban decay, no old men with interesting creases which tell the story of their lives and therefore no photography which is focusing on the contrast of modern society. Denmark, like their most famous invention, Lego, is designed beautifully.

My wife and I managed our lucky annual weekend away without our gorgeous children to have a little of us time leaving our three children, happy as could be with the grandparents.

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Copenhagen is famous for Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid”, Canals that look like they are straight out of Amsterdam, (as a result of the Dutch building some of them), interior shops, posh designer food, beer beer beer, bicycles and a design ethos which is evident everywhere.

I was looking forward to using and testing my newly acquired Holy Grail of lenses, the Leica 50mm APO Summicron with the Leica M240.

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These shots are a miss mash of images and colours taken from around the city. I didn’t take hundreds of shots as I was there to relax and soak up the atmosphere rather than document it but I was pleased and I’m still learning all the time what this lens is capable of. I feel I always need about six months to a year to understand a lenses characteristics and this little gem is no different.

Now I think this is a lens which once purchased needs some financial justification as it is stupidly priced. I am not rich, I am quite sane (sometimes), and I am not a man who easily jumps on bandwagons. However I am a professional food photographer, I did sell two lenses to help pay for this piece of glass and I do use the Leica for the odd professional celeb chef portrait when the opportunity arises. I had ordered one of these, cancelled it and then six months later wanted to see what all the fuss is about.

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I think with lenses there is a misconception about what quality is all about when all of these graphs and charts and grids are produced by scientists who are comparing various tolerances across various apertures. I’ve seen enough shots of bookcases and scenes of toys with colour charts to last me a lifetime. Lenses are not solely about sharpness and yet this lens is sold partly because of its incredible sharpness. This, in the grand scheme of things definitely isn’t the main part of this lens that interests me. I did have a Leica 50mm Summilux and on the M240 it does display a little softness but it is a beautiful, quiet lens displaying subtlety and beautiful bokeh which is arguably nicer than the 50mm APO.

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What this lens does better than any other on the M240 is incredible dynamic range to the point where shots properly look like medium format film. The bokeh is nice but not incredible in my opinion, but the 3D pop combined with the sharpness and dynamic range is remarkable. It gives this lens a versatility like no other. Images can be deliberately overexposed and look subtle and beautiful without the whites bleaching out, and yet dark shots are rich and saturated with black blacks and eye popping colour. Black and white converted RAW shots look so authentically Bressonesque in their tonal values that the digital Leica feels like it has come of age.

The big question surely is “is it worth the money?”….. well for me it makes using extra lenses on the Leica seem superfluous and to that extent if you have a few lenses and traded up to the 50mm APO you wouldn’t be disappointed… I wasn’t… but blimey…. how much!

Howard Shooter

www.HowardShooter.com

Jun 202014
 

Walking New Orleans with the Leica M

By Neil Gandhi

Hey Steve,

Finally got a chance to use my Leica M so I thought I’d share some photos from my recent trip to New Orleans. I had to ditch my A7 and the 5D MIII in order to be able to afford the M240 and after using this system, I think it has been one of the best decisions ever (mind you, I do miss both those cameras and I have captured some great images with them!). Here are some first impressions:

1. The Design. Pure genius in precision and engineering. Minimal, and allows you to quickly get to what you need. The Leica M may not have all the bells and whistles that other cameras in its category have, but to be honest, I did not miss them one bit. The menu and button layouts are intuitive and so easy to get to. It takes a no-nonsense approach by shredding the unnecessary and letting you focus on simply capturing the moments around you.

2. Rangefinder. The Rangefinder methodology of shooting takes quite a bit of getting used to. I found myself constantly missing opportunities simply because I had never used this system for focusing before. At the end of the trip however, I did find myself getting very comfortable using it and found a certain sense of joy in using it. Its like I was actually doing some WORK, prior to taking an image. I bought this book from the Apple iBooks store called “Work your Leica M” by Joeri van der Kloet (https://itun.es/us/KyvxV.l) and his exercises have helped tremendously in getting used to shooting Rangefinder.

3. Ergonomics. The camera is a beast…to hold. Ergonomically, it made me miss having the A7 or the 5D MIII and it kept slipping like a bar of soap from my hand when I initially got it. The leather half case definitely helps and the more I use it, the more I am getting used to holding it and composing my shots.

4. Viewfinder. The optical viewfinder is a joy to use. I do NOT miss having an EVF and the composition lines are wonderful to gauge whats in and out of the scene while composing.

5. Image Quality. As expected, the overall quality of the images processed by the M is just outstanding but the real star of the show was the 50mm f2 summicron lens. I got it used debating how good it would be but man, its sharp. I also used the Zeiss 35mm f2 but minimally as I was smitten by the summicron. Just great for street photography. Low light is a bit of a challenge with high ISO, but having a faster lens will probably help in that department.

Here are some images from the trip (probably more than you need so feel free to take some out for your post), more on my instagram page here: http://instagram.com/lifeinanimage.

Cheers,

Neil

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Jun 092014
 

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The Phoenix Comicon. Portraits with the Leica M, 50 APO and Alien Skin Exposure 6.

Hey guys, I know it is only a few days after I posted Part 1 of the Leica 50 Summciron APO review but I just wanted to sit down and write-up a quick photo article as I just got in from shooting the M 240 and 50 APO at the Phoenix Comicon and once again, the lens continues to impress me when used on the M 240. Take this as a companion to part one of the review. Part 2 is still to come! 

Make sure you click on each image to see it larger. A few of these have a filter applied (where noted) using the new Alien Skin Exposure 6 film filter set. I have used Alien Skin Exposure since Version 1 and love it. You can download a free trial of the new Version 6 HERE.

Shooting the 50 APO on the M is a dream. The focus is easy and I used the Rangefinder 100% of the time. Take a look at the image below which was shot wide open, all natural light. A quick grab shot and it has that medium format look. This was shot in the sun at 2PM in Phx, AZ so you know it is harsh light. This combo did excellent. 1st a B&W conversion, and 2nd, direct color out of the M 240.

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Again, the color is superb. Add to that the sharpness without being harsh or analytical and you have a winning combo. I used the Alien Skin Exposure 6 Astia preset for this one. 

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Click the images to see them larger, PLEASE! They look much better ;) The detail in the full size shot of this one is amazing. To see that full size, click the image below (open in new window for best view)

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The Bokeh of the 50 APO is ethereal with some similarities to the Noctilux (when the Noct is at f/2 or so). For this one I used an Alien Skin filter but can not remember which one. There are so many to choose from and it is fun just experimenting with them all. 

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1st…Here is an OOC JPEG, cropped. The 2nd is using a film filter from VSCO. Not Alien Skin but VSCO, which is a bit different as it applies the filter to the RAW file itself.

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Had some shade for this one..again a B&W conversion using the new Alien Skin Exposure 6 (I have used Alien Skin since Version 1, and love it). Below it the color version. 

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Again, the harsh sun..no problem even with the high contrast of the 50 APO.

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Beautiful detail, tones and color once again in less than perfect light. I do not use flashes, ever. 

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Every one of the images here were shot at f/2, wide open where this lens is designed to be shot. In fact. I am not seeing more sharpness at f/4. You just lose the oh so slight vignette that is there at f/2.

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Two girls having fun taking a selfie with a dude wondering why I am taking their picture ;) He looks confused. 

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As hundreds were in line shuffling in I was snapping images from anyone who looked my way. Alien Skin B&W filter without the noise added.

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A Mother and Son who were exited for the event. I wish they had these events when I was young, my Mom would have so taken me in costume!

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This guy asked ME to take his image..

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There were tens of thousands of people at the event. I believe there was an estimated 70,000 there on Saturday. Next year I am going for all three days and hanging out for a few hours a day. Not only did I get to see some cool costumes and take photos, I met a couple of other photographers as well! This couple went all out…

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The color, Bokeh (see the reflection in the BG), the sharpness from edge to edge..nice. 

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I meant to take a picture of the Minecraft head guy, but noticed the other kid smiling at the camera, so focused on him instead. 

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In the harshest most brutal mid day Phx AZ sun…I did not use an ND filter. Used an Alien Skin Neopan filter minus the grain. 

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and inside just ONE of the many sections/buildings – it was a MADHOUSE!

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Inside this guy looked a little spooked when he saw me pointing the camera at him..

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So there are just a few photos from my hour or two at the Phoenix Comicon. I was not prepared for the mass amounts of people so did not enjoy it inside so much but it was a blast outside. Next year I am going all three days just to hang outside. If any local Phx area shooters want to go with, let me know! Will be a blast. The M 240 and 50 APO is as one would expect, a rock solid pairing. The lens is also literally made for the Monochrom. But I will state again as I did in part one of my review for the lens…you do not need a lens of this caliber to get good photos. The old Summicron is also lovely as is the 50 Summilux. The old cron can be had for about 1/4 the price so it is up to you to decide if the perfection and qualities of the 50 APO are worth it to you in money and in the long wait required to get one.

Happy Monday!

Steve

May 212014
 

Hail to the King of the 50’s. The Leica 50 Summicron f/2 APO.

If one thing is sure to stir up controversy, it is something written positively about Leica on these pages, lol. It never fails. Well, if Leica is a touchy subject for you..turn away now my friends as I have a doozy for ya. Today a package arrived from USPS and inside was a brand spanking new Leica 50 APO ASPH f/2 Summicron lens. Yes, the one that sells for an eye popping, wallet busting, bank draining $7400. The one I called OUTRAGEOUSLY overpriced at launch (before seeing what it could do) and then when I was able to use one for a couple of days I fell hard and fast for it on the M240. WHY? Well, this is the ONLY lens on the M 240 that I feel can fully do justice to the sensor when it comes to detail and color. It also is THE lens for the Monochrom according to many at Leica.

FACT: This lens renders colors totally different than any other lens on the M. When looking at this lens side by side with the old cron or even 50 lux the colors of the older lenses appear a bit dull and different. They are still fantastic though and there is nothing quite like a 50 Summilux but when Leica says this 50 APO is the best lens they have ever made, believe it because it truly is. Really.

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This lens excels in all areas. In color, contrast, sharpness across the frame, distortion, bokeh and absolutely no CA or color issues etc. It is a cost no object design, which is what they set out to do from the get go. It is a statement lens that they expected to sell to a few here and there but it has ended up becoming one of the most desired lenses in the Leica lineup due to the fabulous rendering it creates. The problem is that Leica can only produce a small handful of these every month as they are so challenging to make. Many of the 50 APO’s never make it out of the factory as if they are not 100% perfect they get tossed and I believe Leica is even losing money on this lens, but they still make it because it is a lens that shows what they can do.  There is no way Leica could make this lens and sell it for $3k or $5k. It just would not exist as it is. It is an optically corrected lens and 97.9% perfect. That kind of perfection costs, and no, there is no other 50mm lens in the 35mm world that can compete with the Leica 50 APO. No Canon, no Nikon, No Pentax, None.

So for over a year I have wanted this lens and I have been shooting with the standard 5o Summicron for a while now preparing for the new APO to arrive. The new lens is now here and I stick by what even I said over a year ago. This lens is the best lens Leica makes, period. It is near perfection in a 50mm lens. No distortion. No flare. No CA. Amazing rich color. True Leica build. Smooth operation. Small size. Oh so slight Vigentting at f/2 and gone by 2.8. It even has a sweet twist out built in hood that is genius.

The detail capability of this lens on the M 240 is jaw dropping. It is as close to medium format as you can get in 35mm and the only lens that will deliver near Medium Format quality on the M 240. I predict that in 4-5 years this lens will be selling closer to $9,000-9,500 than the $7400 of today. Buying and owning a lens like this is “money in the bank” as I always say.

The original Noctilux for example sold new for $3500 when I bought a copy from B&H Photo many years ago. Today it sells USED for $7000. I bought a 35 Summicron for $1300 new about 9 years ago, today they are $3200. So Leica lenses appreciate, especially the rarer special lenses like the 50 cron APO.

Now of course, all of this amazing-ness will set you back a cool $7400 if you want it, but don’t fret! The good news is that there are many other lenses out there that get you 80% of this cron for MUCH less. For example, the 50 Summilux at $4000 will give you a much different rendering but one that is gorgeous at the same time. The standard 50 Summicron at $2300 will get you the cron look with lesser/duller color and not as nice Bokeh, but it is in the same family. The Zeiss 50 Planar ZM for under $900 will get you closer still in the color department but lose out in distortion and some loss of detail wide open and again, has some messy bokeh at times. So yes, $7400 is insanely expensive, and not a lens for everyone but that $7300 buys you a special lens.

This is a lens for the 50mm connoisseur. One who loves the 50mm focal length and wants the best of the best. I even prefer it to the $11k Noctilux in Color, Bokeh, sharpness and most of all, Size. Of course this can not give you the Noct shallow DOF look but the Noct can not give you what this cron does either. Size is perfect here. One thing to keep in mind is that this lens sells for about the same as a used Noctilux F/1, the old version of the Noct. Leica lenses are not cheap and never will be.

For most of you, the 50 Lux is the #1 lens to get for the M. It is beautiful and has its own unique style and character and is probably the best selling Leica lens of recent years for good reason. For those of you with a 50mm fetish like me, you must at least TRY the 50 APO at least once in life. I have no clue if this one will stay with me long term as I get all weird about spending so much on a lens but I at least wanted this one for the next few weeks to take with me on a vacation I am taking with Debby. I will use the lens and when I return I will write up my full review of it with comparisons to the current 50 Summicron NON APO and the 50 Zeiss ZM to show you exactly what that extra few grand will get you. If my jaw drops and I get shots that blow me away I will keep it as my main lens for the M.

A video from last year when I 1st took a look at the 50 APO along with the 50 Lux and 50 Noct

Review coming soon

So stay tuned for a full written review and video review and comparison coming in the weeks ahead. I have had the lens for only a few hours so only had a chance to take it around the house for a few snaps but wow, I am blown away by the detail, the Bokeh, the color and the beautiful build of this little jewel. When I get out there and get serious with it in the coming weeks I feel this lens will really speak to my heart. Damn, it should at the cost. But hey, this is Leica of course ;) To be clear, No one..NO ONE needs this lens. This is a lens that will be bought out of lust, foolishness and passion. :)

Mine came from Ken Hansen at [email protected]. I believe he has a pretty hefty waiting list as do all dealers. You can do like I did and shoot a standard 5o cron while you wait for a year on the 50 APO ;)  FInally, to see my last report on the 50 APO that was written up over a year ago, click HERE.

A few snapshots around the house from today, YOU MUST click them for the larger versions to see them correctly.

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The image below is a 100% full size file. Right click it and open in a new window to see the detail. The focus point is on the piece of bark sticking out near the middle of the frame. 

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and the rooster shot from my 1st look..

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Does anyone here own the 50 APO? If so, what are your thoughts on it after using it for a while? Feel free to chime in below.

May 192014
 

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The Voigtlander 75 1.8 VM Heliar Classic Lens Quick Review

By Steve Huff

Lens is available to purchase HERE

Hello to all! Today is Saturday, May 17th 2014 (the day I am writing this, not posting it) and I am sitting down at my desk for the 1st time in 10 days to write something new. For the past 10 days I have been away in Southern Illinois visiting family and spending time with my Mother for Mother’s day and the site has been running on auto pilot all week with scheduled posts..not how I like to roll but hey, I need some vacation time too! After that I went to New Orleans with Olympus to test out the new Tough TG-3 (Which was SO cool) and shoot more with the E-M10 (which I reviewed HERE)

While my trip to Illinois was a pleasure, there was also a ton of business/work happening but the good thing is that I find photography and testing new gear to be exciting and a fun experience so while I was working during my vacation I was having a good time with it as I always do. Life is good, so we should enjoy it and I try my best to do just that each and every day.

So today as I sit here I am going to write a short, quick and mostly photo based review of the Voigtlander 75 1.8 Leica mount Heliar Classic. A fast 75mm lens for your Leica M mount camera for under $700. Yes, under $700! Thanks to Stephen Gandy at Cameraquest for sending me this lens to check out for a couple of weeks. He sells the entire Voigtlander line and has the best prices and even free overnight shipping on certain lenses, this one included. You can see it on his site HERE.

Before I get started be sure to check out the recent guest post review of this lens HERE by Johnny Ciotti. Johnny tested this lens on the full frame Sony A7. ;) My test is 100% on the Leica M 240 which after 14 months is still my #1 and all around fave camera today (which is followed by the E-M1, then RX-1)

Using the 75 1.8 was easy as pie, even wide open. On the M 240 it works very well with great color pop and the classic Voigtlander look. This one is of my Nephew shot wide open at 1.8.

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Testing the 75 1.8 in a real world way

For some reason I never did use this 75mm lens on my M and while it has been out for a while I never was really into the 75mm focal length so it kind of slipped under my radar until a reader submitted a guest post review of this lens on a Sony A7. Then I remembered! OH! The 75 1.8 from Voigtlander!!

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At that time I knew I would have to try it on the M 240 as it is a Leica mount and I do know that the 240 loves all glass, even Voigtlander and old classic lenses. In the past I have tested the Leica 75 Summarit, which is their “Budget” lens and the performance is stellar. It is crisp, contrasty and very sharp. With a minimum aperture of f/2.5 the Leica is a little slower than this Voigtlander but I will state right now that the Leica has a much more “modern” look than this Heliar Classic. I think the word “classic” was used for a reason as the images have a softer more rounded look to them over other more modern lenses like the Leica Summarit or Summicron.

I decided to snap on the 75 to my M 240 and use it as my only lens for a week while visiting my Mother. I also had the Leica C and Sony A6000 with me but I was determined to use this 75  to see exactly what it was all about.

Again, wide open the lens is sharp but has a rounded rendering. The Bokeh is nice but not perfect. Still much better than what you see on some $1500 lenses. 

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So away I went, M in hand with the 75 attached for almost the entire week I was on my trip. Being called a “classic” lens I imagined that the 75 would be a little soft, a little cloudy, some duller colors and without the bite and snap of the Leica 75 Summarit.I mean, let’s face it…most classic lenses are just that. Some are amazing, some are average but none are like the modern lenses of today. The cool thing is that sometimes a lens that renders in a classic way is sometimes preferred over a super sharp clinical modern lens to help keep those imperfections away during portrait sessions.

During my 1st tests with the 75mm lens in real world photo conditions I found the color to be vibrant and with tons of pop. In fact, I was surprised at what came out when I shot my Mother on a swing. The greens were very vibrant and her pink shirt popped as much as it could possibly pop.  I found the sharpness wide open to be a little bit soft, especially in the corners. I found it to have classical but pleasant bokeh. In fact, it performed just as I thought it would but the color pop exceeded my expectations. At $700 with free shipping, this lens already started to seem like a bargain. I mean, the Leica 75 Summarit 2.5 is not built better than this lens, is a little slower in Aperture at f/2.5, a SLIGHTLY farther minimum focus distance (The Voigtlander focuses to .9 meters)  and is more expensive..ALMOST triple the price at $1900. Go to the 75 cron and you are looking at nearly $4000. Remember, this lens is $699.

My Mom on the swing in the park. Shot at f/1.8. 

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I was walking around town when this kid just kept staring at my camera. He seemed to be intrigued so I said “Want me to take your picture”? He immediately smiled and posed with his football. Was shot at 1.8. This one is pretty sharp so when I say the lens is a little soft at 1.8, I do not mean it is “SOFT”, just softer than the Leica 75mm lenses.

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The lens was a snap to focus on the M using the rangefinder and was just sharp enough wide open to make me happy. Again, as I walked around and shot with the lens I was happy with the super smooth focus barrel, the solid clicking aperture ring and the build and heft of the all metal lens. At $700 shipped, I kept saying “THIS IS A STEAL”!!

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But I am still not a 75mm guy. I prefer my 28, 35, 50 and sometimes, on rare occasion the 90mm focal length.  With that said, if I were in the market for a 75mm this would be the lens I would buy just due to the massive bang for the buck involved. There is nothing currently made for Leica mount at this cost that will get you this quality.

Just an old mailbox I cam across while doing a 7 mile walk with my Mom and Son. Shot at 1.8. 

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Nice color pop, great Bokeh effect. At mid distances this lens shines for 3D pop.

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The Auctioneer, 20 years later. Voigtlander 75 1.8 at f/2. Here you can see the barrel distortion that is evident in the corners. While this is a crop, the top of the frame shows the distortion. 

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The Build of the lens is solid. Typical Voigtlander. Anyone who has shot with a Voigtlander lens knows what I am talking about. All metal construction, smooth focusing and aperture and an overall feeling of quality. The build is different than Leica but not far off in feel and use. The images have the smoother Voigtlander look and not the snappier Leica look that would come from something like the Summarit or Summicron.  The cool thing is that this lens can also be used on the Sony A7, A6000 or just about any mirror less camera with an adapter.

Trees of green. Click for larger. Shot at f/2.8 I believe.

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ISO 1250 at f/2

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After one full week of daily use I realized that while not perfect, the Voigtlander would be the perfect lens for those who are looking for a lens that will give them that rich 3D pop and nice color in a portrait focal length. While I think the Leica 75 Summarit is a little bit better, it is almost $1900 and going from $700 to $1900 is a HUGE step! The Voigtlander will be a little less contrasty, have a little less pop and have a little barrel distortion. The Leica will be more perfect and crisp and will not have the barrel distortion. The Voigtlander does indeed come with a metal hood while the Leica does not. Bokeh wise, they are both about equal with the Voigtlander having the more creamy Bokeh. So in my eyes, looking at the pros and cons like this leads me to realize that this Voigtlander is a huge winner and a deal for the cost of $700 with free overnight ship, which is what cameraquest is selling it for now.

My Mother on her Graduation day in May 2014.

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My Nephew in the park

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Overall this lens gets a high recommendation for those looking for a great 75mm lens for the Leica mount for a great price while offering fantastic, if not “classic” performance. When I review a lens I do not bother with charts, graphs and numbers as I feel that has NOTHING to do with photography, at all. What matters is how the lens performs when using it to take photos…what it was designed for! Yes, what a concept! Using a lens  to go out ad take real photos to see how it does in real life. I do not care what numbers say, I care about what the results say and to me, this is a fantastic lens with many more positives than negatives. In fact, the only negative I found was the slight barrel distortion which is only evident in some shots with straight lines at the top and bottom edges. It may give you some CA in certain situations but I have not found a Leica lens yet that does not do this (besides for the 50 APO cron at $7400).

So if you have been looking for a nice 75mm lens, take a long look at the Voigtlander 75 1.8. If you like the quality of the shots here, this is what you can expect when using it with a Leica M 240. Just know that is will be a little soft in the corners wide open up until about f/2.8 when it sharpens up quite a bit. If you want the ultimate in performance in the 75mm focal length, check out the Leica 75 Summicron. It is much sharper, more modern in rendering and much more expensive.

As always, thank you for reading this quick review! If you want to see my Leica 75 Summicron review (an oldie) , click HERE.

Steve

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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