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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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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May 162014
 

Munich River Surfers

By Ha-Wi Herrmann

Dear Steve,

as a daily reader of your blog since the early days I would like to contribute and share some fotos. Maybe some of your readers are not aware of, but the city of Munich/Germany is not only well-known for its world-famous „Oktoberfest“, its historical buildings and modern architectural highlights (like the BMW car company headquarter and museum, the 1972 olympic stadium or the allianz arena).
Munich is also known for its river surfing scene, located at a small artificial river called the „Eisbach“ (at the edge of a huge public park named „Englischer Garten“).

Last summer, while on vacation in Munich with my family, my 14 years old daughter and I went to the „Eisbach“ to take some pictures of the surfers with our Sony NEX 5N, NEX 6 and Leica M 240 cameras.
Now, some weeks ago, we returned to that place to get some more action shots.
Once again with our Sony NEX 6, but this time accompanied by a Sony A 7R (lent by a friend) and a Leica M Monochrom instead of the M 240.

It was interesting to see, that, after a few disappointing tries with the Zeiss FE 55 /1.8 on the A7R in autofocus mode my daughter and I, independently from each other, gave up and decided to concentrate again on our manual focus techniques, which had enabled us to take some exceptional pictures in the past.

So all fotos here were taken with manual lenses: On the Sony NEX 6 we used Contax G lenses (28/2.8, 45/2.0 90/2.0), on the Leicas a Summicron 35/2.0 Asph, a Summicron 50/2.0 Asph, a Noctilux 0.95 and a vintage „Big Berta“ Summicron 90/2.0.

Having in mind, how difficult it can be to catch fast-moving objects with manuaI focus cameras I am really impressed by the output that my young daughter realized with her vintage Contax prime lenses.

All in all, our results from 3 different cameras gave us the opportunity to compare the output of 3 really different, but each on its own fascinating camera concepts. I love my Leica M Monochrom, but I am also very happy with the NEX 6. Buy a 600$ camera and some 40 – 50 years old 25 bucks vintage lenses and you will have all the fun you can get from taking pictures !

More fotos can be found here:

Sony NEX 6 (done by my daughter, a real passionate photographer and my whole pride)
http://321klick.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/surfer/#jp-carousel-302

LEICA M240 and Sony NEX 6
http://wurzelspitze.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/eisbach-surfer/#jp-carousel-22620

LEICA M Monochrom
http://wurzelspitze.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/eisbachsurfer-2/#jp-carousel-24991

Kind regards and keep on posting

Ha-Wi

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May 132014
 

Site Update: I’m traveling but new reviews are on the way!

Hello to all! Just want to update everyone on what is happening here at SteveHuffPhoto.com. For the past eight days I have been on a vacation spending time with my Mother and Sister in Illinois. While I did do work while on the trip (testing the Sony A6000, Leica C and Voigtlander 75 1.8) I had a blast doing so and did not update the site all week. While it DID get updated, it was all on auto pilot and those posts were all scheduled before I left.

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So coming up in the next 7-10 days I will have reviews for the above mentioned cameras and lens. Stay tuned!

I am home today and leave again tomorrow for a 3 day New Orleans trip with Olympus USA to shoot the E-M10 (my review HERE) in style and to test it out in the swamps and in the city so I will also have a new report on the new Olympus stuff and my experience using it in all kinds of cool situations in New Orleans.

Some quick tidbits:

The Sony A6000 is absolutely the best APS-C NEX style camera from Sony yet. NO longer called NEX, the Alpha 6000 is sleek, attractive, quick, feels great in the hand and has superb IQ. Built in EVF and pretty solid for under $800 with lens. I have been shooting it with the kit zoom and the Mitakon 50 0.95.

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The Leica C surprised me. While it has a teeny tiny soft EVF, the camera is well made, has a killer design and look and using the B&W mode of the camera gave me some pretty cool B&W images. Easy to use, tiny, EVF, fast and good quality. If I wanted a P&S with style, this would be my choice. Of course the C is the Panasonic LF1 in a new shell but Leica offers software and a better warranty with the super cool style (double the price). B&H Photo has the C in stock.

OOC JPEG from the Leica C in Dynamic B&W

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The Voigtlander 75 1.8 is a Leica mount lens and it works well on the M 240 providing a classic look with big time color pop. Under $700, a no brainer if you want a fast 75mm for your Leica on the cheap. Superb build, feel, easy to focus and while a little soft wide open this is a good thing for portraits! Cameraquest sells the 75 1.8 with free next day shipping for $700!

The Leica M 240 and Voigtlander 75 1.8

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Mar 292014
 

My story with Leica so far

By William Bichara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

William Bichara

 

 

Mar 272014
 

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

By Jerry Bei

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

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

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Build Quality and Ergonomics

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

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Practical use

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

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

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

My Website: www.jerrybei.com

My Flickr: www.flickr.com/jerrybay

Feb 272014
 

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

By Howard Shooter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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3 Dawn

4 Hooks

5 Aldeburgh beach

6 Aldeburgh front

7 Ice Cream

8 House on the front

9 Bringing the boat back

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Feb 262014
 

garizm240

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

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

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

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

See my review of this case HERE. 

Feb 172014
 

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My favorite ND filter for fast Leica lenses!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Feb 072014
 

The Leica M 240 at Night

by Ivan Makarov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My site – http://www.ivanmakarov.com/

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Jan 312014
 

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The Classic Cases Leica M 240 Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are quite a few cases out there for the M240 and this is the one of the good ones. It is not cheap at about $285 US Dollars (ships from the UK) but it is one of the nicest cases among the sea of half cases to protect that $7000 investment. Many wonder why a case would be so expensive but think about it. A full leather, hand-made and stitched case for under $300 to protect a camera you spent $7000 on (without a lens) is not bad at all. You can go up to $390-$490 and buy an Art Di Mano case which offers a different design and colors (my review of the Arte Di Mano is here, and it is a beauty) and spend even more for a famed Luigi. $285 is about right for the Classic Cases M 240 case and offers up some style, beauty, protection and luxury to your already luxurious M. You can get better but it will cost you almost 2X the amount.

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

Jan 162014
 

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

By George Sutton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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