Aug 282014
 

VIDEO: The Leica M-P and Silver Monochrom

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Ahhhhhhhh, the beauty of Leica. No matter what anyone will ever say, there is nothing like the beauty and feel of a Leica M camera, and I feel this way about the M3, M6, M7, M8, M9, M9-P, Monochrom and M 240/M-P. To me, they are just what I want in a digital camera and have all that I could ever need (except an affordable price and super low light which the A7s covers for me very well). Even after all of these years the Leica M is the ONLY digital rangefinder on the planet (not counting the no longer made Epson RD-1) that is available. So if you are an RF fan, this is it.

Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus..none have even attempted it although I was hoping Nikon would do so a few years ago. So as of today, mid 2014, Leica is the only game in town if you want a real life back to basics digital rangefinder camera and NO, Fuji do not have ANY RF cameras (some seem to think they do).

With that out-of-the-way, here we are a couple of months before PHOTOKINA where all kinds of goodies get released and announced. I am sure Leica will have something new, Sony will have something new and huge and Nikon and Canon will probably have the same old same old. Olympus will have something new, probably Panasonic as well. But just a couple of months early Leica not only announced but released the black paint M-P.

The M-P is basically an M240 with a larger buffer, sapphire LCD screen and all black paint without any markings on the front. This means NO “M” and no RED DOT! On the top you have the classic Leica logo which appears just as it did in the M-9P (which was crazy popular, sold out at launch for months). The M-P is not selling out at launch and that is mainly due to the fact that at the price of $8,000 it is too expensive in 2014 even for a Leica. With Sony rocking the A7 series that have an even better sensor at 1/3 the cost it makes it hard to justify a digital Leica today. With that being the case, why did i just purchase TWO of  them? EEEK!

The deep rich tones of the MM (with a Zeiss 50 Planar, one of my fave M lenses ever due to bang for the buck)

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Well, part of it is passion. Part is foolishness. Part is from my heart and the rest is due to the fact that no matter how many times I drift away from Leica…I ALWAYS COME BACK. I have an emotional connection to the M and when I am out with it I enjoy it more than any other camera, even if other cameras can do more for me. The Leica M 240 is my favorite camera of all time, previous to this it was the M9. When the Sony A7s was released it was tied with my M 240 and I said “why would I keep this M when I love the Sony so much”. So I sold my M 240 and banked the money.

Two months later, while I still am in love with the A7s and have no desire to get rid of it, the M has creeped back in to my head. Just days before the M-P was announced I was looking for a used deal on an M 240 yet again. So away I go and email Ken Hansen who said “I will have the M-P week, if you want one let me know”. Too easy. Bam. Ordered. He also said “I have a few silver chrome Monochrom’s in stock” – and that was it, BAM! I went crazy..I was foolish..but do I regret it? No, because I now have an M-P which is the most beautiful M 240 yet and the chrome MM is a sight to see and about as unique and pure as a digital camera can get. Both have their uses as does my Sony A7s.

In fact. I will use my A7s for low light, macro,  and some times when I need a hassle free AF camera. I will use the MM on those occasions when a pure B&W mode strikes me and the M 240 on all other occasions. The great thing is that the lenses can be used on all three cameras without issues.

Here I am almost 45 years old and still being stricken with GAS. Today though I will acknowledge that the prices required to get into a Leica M system are way too high, but for those who gain happiness and joy from it then it doesn’t really matter as long as you can swing it. Life is short and I would rather LIVE IT than sit around on my couch all day watching TV, waiting for something good to happen to me. So that is what I do and how I live life.

So the new Leica M-P is available and shipping NOW! For those interested, you can order them at Ken Hansen, PopFlash, Pro Shop, B&H Photo, Amazon and Leica Store Miami. The Chrome MM is also available from all of those dealers.

Below is my video featuring both cameras. Enjoy!

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

Aug 072014
 

Why cameras are important!

By Rudiger Wolf

Steve,

Your site really does provide inspiration. After the A7s review, I decided to try the low light monster. I had hefted the A7 before, and it just did not feel/sound quite right. The A7s arrived just before our annual family pilgrimage to Lake Tahoe. We try to enjoy family time together at Lake Tahoe every summer. This time it would be especially fun, because the grandkids are getting old enough to enjoy the festivities (2 and 5 years old). Many years ago, I read an article wondering why some professional photographers use the best cameras and lenses on their clients, and then use lower quality gear for pictures of their families… pictures that could bless the lives of family members for generations to come, long after the value of client pictures are gone. I took that lesson to heart, and use the best equipment I can on my own family. Here then, are a few pictures of our recent trip to Lake Tahoe, using the A7s and Zeiss 24-70.

Ok, well not quite always that camera and lens combination. In this case, it was the A7s with Leica 21mm f3.4. Shot at ISO 3,200, F3.4, 20 sec.

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This is my 5 year old grand-daughter. She woke up early one morning. I was already working on the images from the previous day. The light streaming through the glass doors looked like it might offer some interesting images. She is an absolute sweetheart, and agreed to model for our photo shoot. I used the A7s and Leica glass, but ultimately, this is one of my favorite shots. Leica M240 with 90mm at f3.4, 1/30 sec at ISO 800. The colors on the A7s just did not match up as well.

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There is no intention of a fake out here. The A7s is an impressive instrument. I did have the chance to use the A7s exactly as I imagined it. Auto ISO, shutter speed fast enough to capture the active grandkids, Zeiss zoom lens for auto focus and flexibility. It all came together with a series of shots in a pretty dark room and my two grandsons…cousins. Sony A7s, Zeiss 24-70, 1/125 sec, f4.0, ISO 12,800! This one will last a lifetime! Where is the grain? Awesome.

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Obviously, we also watched the fireworks. I had tried to get them from the boat before with my D800e. Don’t get me wrong, I love that camera. Like any camera, it has limitations. Again, the A7s showed it’s capability. This was shot with Zeiss 24-70 at 1/125 sec, f4.0 at ISO 51,200! Just a fantastic camera for low light.

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Did I mention my grand kids? They loved the show! Sony A7s, Zeiss 24-70 at 1/40 sec, f4.0, ISO 12,800.

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To wrap this up… Thanks for the recommendation on the Sony A7s. It has enabled me to capture images I will treasure for a long time. My kids and their kids will see these, and remember the great times we have had together as a family. I can think of no loftier goal than to invoke those memories and feeling of joy and love together as a family.

Rudy

digitalwolftracks.smugmug.com
Rudiger Wolf

Aug 012014
 

The Walter Leica Contrast Lens, an invaluable addition to your M?

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Walter over at Leicawalter.com sent me an email message about his latest item he has created and made available to all Leica M users, and this one appears to be fantastic. It is a contrast lens that goes over your eyepiece and will give you much more contrast when viewing through the viewfinder. This will make it easier to focus, easier to see and give you a more pleasurable experience when using your Leica M or so says Walter himself.

Here is what Walter says about the contrast lens:

In order to get the best focusing possibilities for our clients, we created the WALTER contrast lense.

This amazing eyepiece has a special golden colour coating, which intensifies the light, resulting in better contrast for easier focusing.

The lense is manufactured by hand, utilizing the best optics available and is mounted in solid ‘Gun Kote’ brass.
Multi coated optics to reduce glare.
Contrast-enhancing tint for improved focusing.
Refined and improved dimensions.
Larger optical curved lense for clearer, wider view.
Simply screws into any Leica M camera.
Coating can be used with prescription lenses (WALTER eyepiece), diopter lenses and plano (normal) lenses.
Special launch price: $180.00 (includes postage by registered airmail)
Please enquire about lead time.

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Walter tells me that Leica themselves had a similar golden coating on some early M3 cameras, and that they actually used real gold so it became to expensive to implement.

If you would like  to pre-order the Leica Walter Contrast Lense, you can do so directly at walterleica.com HERE. Walter told me there is a 2 week wait time right now on this piece. Keep in mind..as it was not already obvious..that this is NOT a review of the eyepiece. I have not even seen one in person. Just posting about the new product. Walter always creates cool things for Leica and has been around for a while and is well respected by those who buy his products.

Steve

 

Jul 152014
 

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The Sony A7s: A New Camera for Leica M lenses

By Ashwin Rao – HIs flickr is HERE, his Facebook is HERE

Hello, gang. It’s Ashwin, back from a bit of a hiatus to discuss the camera du jour, Sony’s impressive A7s. The A7s has gotten quite a bit of press, in particular for it’s remarkable ISO sensitivity/performance, for it’s 4K video, and for it’s buck-the-convention 12-megapixel sensor. It’s been hotly debate, in light of the already-exceptional performance of its two siblings, the A7 and A7R, which offer different full frame sensors. I have extensively shot both bodies, and while I enjoyed the experience, I was left a bit in the lurch for entirely selfish reasons. Unfortunately, extensive shooting bore out that the A7r is really not a great option for Leica M lenses due to the critical nature of the sensor and how it plays (poorly) with M lenses, causing excessive vignetting, color casts, and detail smearing at the edges. The Sony A7 is better with regards to its capacity with M lenses (most lenses 35 mm and above do “okay” to “great” on the A7), but after shooting these 2 cameras, I came to the conclusion that perhaps Leica M lenses were best suited to be used on Leica M camera bodies, from a purely imaging standpoint. One can argue endlessly about the rangefinder (beyond the frame lines) vs SLR/mirrorless (tunnel vision) way of seeing, and there’s really no right answer there, as it’s more a matter of preference. But until recently, while the A7R and A7 were capable of using M lenses, they didn’t really make M lenses shine. And thus, I moved on, continuing to genuinely enjoy my Leica M bodies for my M lenses.

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A few months ago, whispers of a new camera began, and what resulted was the Sony A7s….a low megapixel (in today’s market), high ISO monster reportedly designed for videographers ready to make use of its full frame sensor and 4K recording potential. What people did not speak so much about was whether it would handle Leica M lenses better than its siblings. Maybe it was a lack of interest, and maybe the conversation moved on, but for me, my curiosity was piqued. I wondered whether the sensor’s lower megapixel (less critical) sensor, coupled with its gapless sensor design, would allow it to handle rangefinder lenses, which notoriously bend light into difficult angles at the periphery of digital sensors. My curiosity was also piqued by the high ISO capabilities of such a camera. If the A7s could handle high ISO’s as well as was being made out, suddenly, one could use compact, relatively “slow” M lenses such as the f/2 Summicrons, f/2.5 Summarits, f/2.8 Elmarits, and f/4 Elmars in low light conditions at high shutter speeds. Further, faster M lenses, such as the f/1.4 Summiluxes and f/0.95-1 Noctilux options might allow the photographer to see into the dim light of night like never before, and the lenses remain relatively compact to top it off. Leica M and other rangefinder lenses are generally much smaller than their mirrorless (at least FF mirrorless) and SLR counterparts, and balance quite well on the A7(s/r) bodies quite well, so one could make incredibly versatile images at very low light, using a very small kit…..in theory.

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To top it off, the Sony A7s was soon announced to have a “silent shutter” option, allowing the photographer to shoot with a full electronic shutter that would not announce itself whenever a photo was being taken. To me, this was one of the huge potential benefits to the Sony…Silence means that a photographer can work discretely, and the A7s, for the first time, offered this option to the photographer choosing a mirrorless body for work…For a Leica photographer-nutball such as myself, the value of discretion is part of the “rangefinder way”, and now, here was a mirrorless body that did it even better than the Leica M3 through M7, with their lovely/subtle shutter sounds….Here was a camera that could offer silence when shooting (albeit with the risk of a rolling shutter effect for fast-moving subjects)….wow, the A7s was now really grabbing my attention.

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But, All of this was fine and dandy, but only, and only if M lenses would play well on the Sony….

So the early reports came in, including Steve’s own detailed, fantastic, glowing review of the camera, using mainly FE lenses…Steve was blown away by the camera’s AF performance, high ISO performance, and it’s overall handling, for a full frame camera. But the images that intrigued me most from his review, as well as those of others, was the performance of the tiny Cosina Voigtlander 15 mm Heliar lens. Many of you know that while this lens one of the widest fields of view for a rangefinder lens, it plays quite poorly with the M9 and M240, and doesn’t do well on cropped sensors in many instances, due to excessive color shifts (magenta) and vignetting, due to the physics of the optics at play and how they project light through the lens and onto most sensors…Yet, the Sony A7s was handling the CV 15 mm lens, no sweat.

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So off I went to my camera store, armed with a host of Leica M lenses, ranging from a 21 mm f/3.4 Super Elmar through a 90 mm f/2 APO-Summicron. After a few preliminary shots, I took note of dramatically less vignetting and what appeared to be more uniform color through the image field (i.e. no color casts). Hmmmm, great start, I thought….

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But what about smearing? One issue with using lenses 35 mm or wider at full aperture, is that many lenses start to smear details at the periphery of the imaging field. It’s a dirty little secret that Leica’s own wide angle lenses tend to do this on digital bodies, and this was one of the reasons that it took so long for Leica to introduce a digital rangefinder (and ultimately, the Leica M8 with it’s 1.3x crop sensor, designed to avoid the physics causing some of the issues mentioned). At one point, Leica’s CEO at the time mentioned that it might never be possible to produce a digital M body, but we know how that prediction turned out….

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Smearing has been a major issue for me with full frame bodies such as the Sony A7r and A7, and when added to intermittent color casts and high levels of vignetting, I had previously found that files just took too much work to get things right, and I gave up. Now, sitting home at my computer with a variety of files from a variety of lenses ranging from wide to telephoto, I was not seeing any objectionable colorcasts and much improved vignetting. How about smearing, then? Well, the jury is still out, but for the most part I have been entirely pleased. Of the wide lenses in my possession, I found that the 21 mm f/3.4 Super Elmar did exhibit slight detail loss at the far edges of the image, but this was not objectionable, just more than what I had seen on the M9 and M240 bodies. The lens that continues to “misbehave” on the A7s was the Leica 28 mm f/2 Summicron ASPH. This lens gives even Leica M bodies some trouble, and in the case of the Sony A7s, it has continued to produce moderate smearing at the edges. For real world street photography, in which edge sharpness may not be important, the smearing rarely matters, but if one were shooting landscapes, he or she would notice this, so it’s I lens I have considered avoiding for those moments when edge sharpness matters (For most other moments, the 28 ‘cron works great). Beyond that, I have had no issues with edge smearing. Everything works great. My Wide Angle Tri Elmar (WATE) works perfectly at 16 mm on the A7s, though this lens’ design plays reasonably well with even the A7r. My 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux FLE, which didn’t work well on the A7 due to odd vignetting, works perfectly well on the Sony A7s.

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To add to the story, I have found that the Sony A7s does a great job with colors. It presents a palette similar to that of the Sony A7 and A7r, so if you are used to the files that those cameras make, the A7s will be similar. One nice added perk is that at higher ISO, while dynamic range does start to drop off a bit (particularly past ISO 4000, though files are totally useable, in my opinion, through ISO 12,800), the color reproduction at those high ISO’s remains solid. There’s only so much you can push today’s sensor tech, in terms of dynamic range and high ISO noise and color performance, but the Sony A7s is today’s state of the art.

Ultimately, I have been thoroughly pleased with my time using Leica M lenses as my sole lens set up for the Sony A7s. Everything works well. High ISO – check! Silent shutter – check! Minimal muss and fuss with edge image quality – BIG check! Colors and skin tones. Check that as well. Handling of camera with M lenses…big HUGE check! It all seems to work well.

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In summary, I have found the Sony A7s to be a great option on which to use Leica M lenses. If you have an investment in rangefinder lenses, or intend to do so, the Sony A7s is the current camera that you’d want to have on a budget. Sure the Leica M9 is fantastic, but it has high ISO limitations. The Leica M240 is great, but tends to start banding around ISO 3200. Those are fantastic options and allow one to see in the “rangefinder way”. But separating yourself from that, the Sony A7s is an incredible imaging machine. Sure, it has a lower megapixel count, but 12 MP files are plenty for the vast majority of us. The camera’s incredible ISO performance allows for the use of slower lenses, and thus more compact lenses, in low light shooting circumstances. Suddenly, your Elmars and Summicrons become relevant options for night photography, and lenses such as the Noctilux allow you to pear into the night better than your own eyes….it’s rather incredible. Creative possibilities open up, and I see new photographic horizons ahead! The Camera’s EVF is sufficient to reliably focus lenses, particularly if one uses the “Focus Magnify” option to achieve critical focus. The silent shutter allows for very discrete shooting, and for most street photography moments, it’s a perfect option (I have yet to see the Rolling shutter effect for my style of shooting) that’s silent and discrete. And year, silent shutter means no shutter shake to blur your images at that pixel level. Speaking of pixels, the camera’s lower pixel count allows for easier achievement of sharp images at slower shutter speeds, if desired, as 12 MP is much easier to hand hold than 36 megapixels in nearly any circumstance…something to consider if pixel peeping for sharp images is your thing.

The list goes on and on, but you can see that I am quite convinced that the Sony A7s is a viable option for those of you who want to use small, high performance rangefinder lenses on a mirrorless body. It’s the way to go. By the way, every image you see here was shot with the A7s and a M mount Leica lens. Now go out, test one out, and see if it satisfies you. The Sony A7s has certainly satisfied me.

All the best to you, my friends!
Ashwin (July, 2014)

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Jun 302014
 

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Leica M 240 Firmware Update! Version 2.0.1.5

I just arrived back home from my eight day vacation and what do we have here? New firmware for the Leica M 240! Yep, Leica has released a new FW version for the M 240 and this is a BIG ONE! It fixes some bugs and adds some new features such as “Exposure Simulation” as well as the much waited for Auto ISO fixes! Yes, you can now customize your Auto ISO settings, which is very welcome. You can now turn OFF video and live view is available with EVERY lens made, even old screw mount lenses.

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Below is the list of ALL changes made but you can download the new firmware HERE. It is simple to install and takes about 3 minutes from start to finish. I updated my M without issue.

GET THE NEW FIRMWARE VERSION 2.0.1.5 HERE!

Improvements Firmware Update M240 Version 2_0_1_5_en

Improvements – Leica M (Typ 240) Firmware Version 2.0.1.5.

  • Improved description of the lens type in Exif-Data
  • Live view is now possible with every lens (including older screw lenses via an adapter) using“manual lens detection”
  • A “Video off” option is now available in the Set menu (see submenu item “Video recording”)The M-Button on the Top-cover is deactivated when this option is chosen.
  • The Horizon (level) is now visible in Live View, overlaying the live image. This additional info-screen is enabled using the menu item “Horizon”
  • New menu item “Exposure Simulation”Exposure simulation -> Permanent: Live View accurately shows image brightness according to the shutter speed and aperture set in manual exposure (as long as the chosen exposure time is shorter than 1/30s)Exposure simulation -> Release button half-pressed: Image brightness in live view is adjusted for best visibility, regardless of the actual exposure.
    Half pressing the shutter button shows the actual exposure.
  • Extended Auto ISO options
    All Auto ISO options are now visible using the ISO button
    Extra options for “Maximum Exposure Time” – 1x, 2 x, or 4x focal length – can be selectedto help avoid camera shake when using auto ISO and long lenses.
    “Auto ISO in M mode”is now offered as an option. This varies ISO sensitivity for correctexposure when shutter speed and aperture are set manually.
  • Crop marks
    In Live View, new crop marks for 3:4 / 6:7 / 1:1 / and 16:9 aspect ratios can be displayed. By pressing the up/down keys, the crop marks are superimposed on the live view screen (without additional information)
  • Korean language
    Korean is now available as a menu language
  • During video recording, 1/25s is now used instead of 1/24s. This reduces flicker effects with 50Hz mains voltage
  • Exposure bracketing settings are now saved when the camera is switched off
  • Direct exposure correctionAn “EV correction” option in the menu enables direct adjustment.
    So EV compensation can be altered by turning the thumb wheel, without having to press additional buttons.
  • New Light Metering Mode “Classic / LV disabled”
    In this mode, only Classic light-metering is possible; the LV button is disabled to avoid the activation of live view by accident.
  • New menu item “Focus Peaking”
    For improved visibility, the color of focus peaking can now be set to red, green or blue.
  • Better display of GPS location data
    Position is now shown for JPG files in Adobe Lightroom®
    Where the GPS signal is weak, the last position is now deleted after 5min instead of 24h as in previous firmware versions.
  • Bugfix in Live View at high temperatures
    Occasional malfunction of Live View at high temperatures has been fixed
  • Bugfix in light metering (Live view)
  • Bugfix regarding sensor cleaning function

 

Jun 252014
 

Still enjoying my Leica M8

By Jochen Utecht

Dear Steve,

It has been a while since you published my latest “inspirational” email (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/01/14/daily-inspiration-494-by-jochen-utecht/). This time I would like to share a few images taken with my Leica M8, which I love and hate at the same time. If I had to decide which camera to keep, it would be the Fujifilm X100s. But the M8 is capable of outstanding quality. It only is a slow and quirky device, which sometimes is a good thing.

You can hardly push the ISO beyond 640. There is too much noise showing up. Focusing often takes too much time for snapshots. But prefocusing can make looking through the viewfinder obsolete. Compared to the X100 it is a heavy piece of metal. But it feels soo good!

I don´t have Leica lenses, because I am by no means rich if money matters. But I could get hold of a few nice lenses second hand:
Voigtländer 21/4, VC 15/4.5, Minolta 28/2.8 and Minolta 40/2.0. The Minolta´s are the same in quality as Leica glass. And the 15/4.5 is fantastic. Very sharp lens. I use the 21 and the 28 most of the time.

Usually I shoot RAW (DNG). The wide-angle lenses from Voigtländer get a treatment with CornerFix first. Then I develop a bit with Photoshop (Camera Raw). After that I go into Picasa and make some adjustments to the jpg´s. (First I try the I´m-feeling-lucky-button) That works well enough for me at least.

VC 21/4, edited in PS (correction of converging lines)

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They don´t earn much money, but are really childloving people.
Minolta 28mm/2.8, prefocused image.

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The forbidden city is always a joy to walk around. I usually hate images taken from behind. They are cowardish and mostly don´t say anything than that the photographer was there and didn´t have the guts to ask for permission. But sometimes you cannot do anything else and the picture still works.
VC 21/4.

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The same goes for this one. This Panorama was also with the 21/4. I stitched it from 6 portait-style images. There is barely any distortion in the VC21/4, so PS didn´t have problems putting it together. I don´t mind that some people appear as doublettes. Next time I might bring a tripod and blur the people.

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First of all I asked for permission to take a picture of these beauties. After a posing picture was taken they immediately went back to watching their smartphones and I could capture the scene I had been seeing before.
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Sometimes you get nice results if you hand the M8 to a stranger to have your picture taken. This was on the first of May. I even had to tell that chinese fellow which button to press, but made the settings prior to handing the camera over. It would have been a fun pic if my face had been replacing Mao. I will try that next time. That might not be possible with a rangefinder camera though.
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I hope you enjoyed the pictures and if you don´t want to show all 6 pictures, feel free to choose three of them.

Thanks, Jochen
5intheworld.de

Jun 192014
 

Crazy Comparison: Sony A7s, 551.8 vs Leica M 240, 50 APO and more!

Many have asked for this, so here you go. Both files are from RAW and both were shot within 45 seconds of each other at f/2. The 1st image is from the A7s and 55 1.8 at f/2. This combo comes in at $3600 or so, not cheap by any means but I feel that the A7s, even after having it for only a day so far, is the best Sony camera made to date. For me it offers the best of all worlds. Lush low ISO quality with a nice rich, sharp, manageable and very pleasing file quality. It also offers the best in class high ISO performance and superb video capabilities.

Many have asked me to pit the Leica M with 50 APO (a lens that I feel is the best you can get on the M and for the M) against the Sony A7s with 55 1.8. The result is below. You must click on the images for larger version and to see the 100% crop. The Sony surprised me here! The Leica combo comes in at almost $15,000 so, $11,500 more than the Sony.

What do YOU think?

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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.

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Jun 182014
 

My story with Leica so far, Part 2

By William Bichara

A month or two ago, Mr. Huff was kind enough to post a Leica-themed piece I had sent him as a note of appreciation of his informative blog and a recount of a personal experience I had with a recent Leica purchase from Ken Hansen ([email protected]). As with many stories, opinions and other notes posted to this forum, my piece drew some commentary, some kind and appreciative, some pointed and critical, and a few that I dismiss as bitter and inconsequential. Because of the suggestive nature of some of the critical feedback, today I feel compelled to respond, while at same time aiming for a second shot at properly representing my work.

To the folks who pointed out flaws in the pictures posted with my initial blog piece, those images were included only for their sentimental value – being the first few shots I took with the new M. They were test pictures posted as-shot while just playing around with my new Leica, and are by no means a final product meant to showcase my professional work – that wasn’t at all the point from my post. It was a heartfelt expression of great enthusiasm towards a camera meant to be shared with an audience with similar passions. To the rest of the commentators with kind and appreciative remarks, thank you for seeing the post for what it is and for taking the time to write your thoughts. To those of you who went the extra mile to visit my website and critique my work, your reviews are highly appreciated. I enjoyed your commentary and I view the few perceived shortcomings as mere creative differences.

Now that my very first post at stevehuffphoto.com is out and with it my nagging urge to share my enthusiasm about Leica in general, I’m ready to share other photography-related topics with followers of this blog and I would like to start with an overview of my background and my passion for photography, albeit with the same sentimental tendencies as before. I’m also sharing a set pictures from a recent personal photography trip that I feel may find interest among those of you who can appreciate the rawness of some of the images in this selection.

Growing up in the war-torn neighborhoods of Beirut, Lebanon, I was unsurprisingly absorbed into the harsh realities of everyday life, and haunted by images of the people touched by warfare, and the once happy and lively streets transformed into piles of rubble and skeletons of buildings. Coupled with my passion for photography from a very young age, these conditions have shaped my vision and style throughout my career path and made me consistently seeking to photograph the real and the raw. With a mind constantly swarming with deeply moving pictures, I found in photography the perfect medium to express my thoughts the way I experience them – mostly unrefined and evocative images.

My awareness of my preferred photography style started by a fascination with Leica cameras when I was a little boy. From the first images of Leica street photography I saw in the french PHOTO magazine spreads, to the time I bought my first Leica M system 30 years later, my pictures have always sought to speak the Leica language regardless which camera they were shot with.

One of my most recent photography destinations was Mexico, and as you may have already guessed, it was not the resorts and the touristic spots that I was after. One key location I was anxious to see and cover was the “Island of the Dolls”. Described as one of the creepiest spots in the world, this location is like a nightmare come to life, yet it was somebody’s superstition-filled reality at some point – a deserted shrine of countless forlorn dolls. This place was once a stage to a very different kind of human misery – a lonesome struggle with a supernatural enemy. I could not be more drawn to a less refined and more evocative subject.

Another destination was the University of Mexico “UNAM” where I photographed some of Mexico’s most treasured monuments – O’Gorman and Alfaro Siqueiros mosaic murals, and the Sculptural Space Park. For a reason I can’t really explain, these locations had a very special appeal to my passion for rugged imagery.

The rest of the photo selection is some other highlights reflecting random street pictures that captured my eye throughout my little excursion.

Sincerely,

William Bichara

www.williambichara.com | www.weddingsbybichara.com | www.williambicharasblog.tumblr.com

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Jun 062014
 

title50apo

The Leica 50 Summicron f/2 APO Review, Part 1

by Steve Huff

Technically, the best 50mm lens I have ever shot with. Period. End of Story. Done Deal. No contest. Really!

This is part one of a 2-3 part long term review of this lens. When all is said and done I will have shot this lens on the M 240 extensively, I will have shown you comparisons with the standard cron and other 50mm lenses, I will have shot it on the Sony A6000 and A7s and will do a complete video breakdown on this lens and what and why it is. For now, enjoy part 1 which is basically the introduction to this special lens for the Leica M system. Enjoy!

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The perfect 50mm lens..does it even really exist? Many say that this exact lens that I am about to write about is the best 50mm ever made, without question or doubt but I will tell you that what is determined as “the best” for you comes down to personal preference. To some, the best 50mm lens may be a 50 f/2 Rigid Summicron or for others it may be the 50 Summilux pre-asph, for others the classic 50mm Summarit or Summitar.

If someone were to want the 50mm lens with the most perfect specs, this Leica 50 Summicron APO f/2 would be the ticket though, without question. It would also be the one that will melt your credit card because at the price of $7,350.00, this is not a lens to consider lightly, nor is it a lens that is really “needed’ by 99% of us.

Yes my friends, perfection does not come cheap and this is a wallet buster for sure, even if you are well off or have cash in the bank. For quite a while I was upset that Leica priced this lens the way they did and I remember early on after the announcement I was ready to give up my Leica for good as they were pricing so many out of the M system. I mean, $7,350 for a 50mm f/2 prime when the still current non APO sum micron is $2300?

Well, time has passed since then and it was not until after I really understood what it was, and how hard it was to make and the that Leica is reportedly losing money on this lens that I decided to really take a look at it. When I actually had one in my possession for a while, which just happened recently, I realized how special the lens is. Even with that said, no 50mm lens is really “worth” $7,350 to 99% of people but I do understand why it is priced at this level and I do understand why so many of us Leica M shooters lust after this particular piece of glass.

Sure, I enjoy using a $600 50 Summarit just as much as I love using this APO cron but one thing is certain, I can not fault this lens in any way. From packaging, to construction, to quality, to the hood, to the size, to the pride of ownership that comes with it. It is a thing of beauty and just holding it you can feel the quality and care that went into making it.

It is beautifully made, beautiful in size and technically the best 50mm lens I have ever used. No distortion, amazing contrast, super detailed and sharpness, sweet color and smooth as you can get bokeh in an M mount 50 next to the $11,000 Noctilux. But just because this lens has all of those qualities does not mean that other 50’s now have to be dumped. In fact. Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander make some fantastic 50mm lenses for the M mount and they come in at a fraction of the cost. One could buy a Zeiss 50 Planar f/2 for $800 and take the $6500 saved and go on a massive photo trip :) One could buy the original summcrion for $2300 and save $5000 to use for whatever else they desire. Just because this lens is as good as it gets in a 50mm for 35mm does not mean it is needed to create good photos. I have taken many bad photos with this lens, I should know :)

The Leica M 240 and 50mm APO Summicron makes for one hell of a combo, but at $14,000+, it is pricey combo.

One thing I love about the M system is that I can capture moments just when I want to. Here I was prefocused and waited…looking through the viewfinder until the one moment that I wanted to capture happened. Ahhh, to be young.

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At the cost of this lens and how long it takes to get a hold of one (9-24 month wait after ordering) I do not expect many to actually buy or own this lens. Only the camera crazy G.A.S. stricken few will dare take the plunge into this kind of investment for a single lens, especially when it is a common focal length, 50mm, and common aperture of f/2. But yes! There is a long line for it and that line extends at some dealers for what would equal a good 2 year wait.

But me, I bought one as I have spoken with a few of you who have bought one and swear up and down about this lens. I also never did get a chance to do a full review of this lens so as a service to all of my Leica readers here, I felt I owed it to all of you to write about this lens, lol. Well, that is my way to justify buying it. That and I remembered just how good it was when I had it for a few days over a year ago.

But it is even better now because the latest version of this lens that is shipping has now been fixed of the “flare” issue that was reported on this very lens and the earlier batches. It seems if you bought one early on then your lens may have a flare issue, which was a big no no as this lens was supposed to be perfect. Well, Leica admitted the problem and fixed it. If anyone has an older version of this lens and it fares you can send it to Leica and they will send it back to you flare free. My version would not and could not flare so I know mine is the latest and greatest

Shot at f/2. this one has detail and pop. 

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50mm = the new crack

In reality, I am a 50mm junkie. I think I have tried just about every 50mm lens ever made for the Leica M system. I have loved many of them, even the old 1940’s lenses. Lenses like the Canon 50 0.95 were very cool and fun to use and the old summitar was beautiful and cheap.

I have used the 50mm Summilux ASPH for years, and feel that it is a legendary lens. A lens that is still expensive but more realistic in price at $4,000 (though still high compared to other 50mm lenses). The 50 Summilux offers a faster aperture at $3300+ less than the 50 APO, so for most, THAT is the ultimate Leica 50mm lens. I have captured many precious memories with a 50 Summilux ASPH on the M6, M7, M8, M9 and M 240. It has stood the test of time and still today is probably the most sought after Leica 50mm lens. With the Summilux being so good, why would one spend $3300 more on a slower aperture lens?

That is what I wondered myself but again, the 50mm Summicron APO is for those who want perfection and those who want the best technical 50mm lens ever made. For Leica, this lens is a statement lens. A lens that shows that you do not need a big fat housing to have a perfect 50mm lens ;) Proof that you can have no distortion, nearly no CA and perfect across the frame sharpness even at f/2, when the lens is wide open. The Bokeh of the 50 APO is much nicer than that of the older 50 Summicron, which has been known to have “busy” bokeh. The ONLY fault of this lens is slight vigneting when wide open, but it is slight and adds to the photo IMO. This lens uses very high-end exotic glass, the  best Leica can source.

ISO 3200, Leica M 240, 50 APO at f/2. Click it for larger and see just how nice this looks at 3200!

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or in color. Even at ISO 3200 in a dim restaurant the M creates acceptable color and smooth bokeh with minimal non offensive noise. 

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A True Masterpiece

The 50 APO is tiny. Smaller than a 50 Summilux. It is also gorgeous and has the coolest and smoothest twist out built-in hood ever. It is like a fine jewel in feel, use and in quality. The lens even ships in a large deluxe box that houses a fancy presentation case much like the Noctilux box does. The lens comes with two lens caps, one old school brass (black paint) and one plastic. I keep the black paint one in the box so I do not lose it and just use the standard plastic one. When on the camera it feels like I am shooting the normal standard summicron but when I look back at the pics the level of color fidelity and contrast and pop is on another level.

In use the lens is a joy, It has a focus tab so is easy to focus but I do have one quibble. The aperture ring is a little too loose. I keep the lens at f/2 as it is PERFECT for my tastes at this aperture. I find that sometimes it has slid to f/2.8 and I do not realize it until after the images has been taken. It needs to be a little stiffer to avoid shifting on accident. Other than that, I can find no negatives with this lens at all.

I know that when I grab my Leica M and head out the door for a day of shooting and this lens is attached..well, I know that when I return home and load up my photos to my large 27″ screen that I will be in awe of the colors, the details and the beauty of the files. Being who I am though, I know that I will also be telling myself constantly “You spent HOW MUCH on this lens…you could have used that money for something much more responsible”. So with my guilt of spending so much money on a small tiny lens, when this 2-3 part review is all done, it MAY go up for sale but then again, seeing that this lens makes such an amazing one lens kit with the M, that would be very hard for me to do. :)

Here are a few more of my 1st photos from the 50 Cron…

Bokeh is about as good as it gets in a 50mm Leica M lens (besides the ultra creamy and smooth Noctilux, but that is a whole new look all in itself) f/2

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Mid Day in Prescott, AZ – This little guy was looking at me, probably thinking “Damn, that is a sweet camera”! Click image for larger and more detailed version. f/2

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Debby enjoying the day. This is right out of camera at f/2.

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The color pops with this lens and the M 240

Many who shoot the M 240 notice that some of their favorite lenses performed quite differently than they did on the older M9. Color was different, the POP was a bit different, the sharpness was even different. In the case of the 50 Summilux ASPH I noticed a big difference in rendering from the M9 to the M 240, though I enjoyed both cameras way of presenting the files. Even so, the color was the trickiest part of the M. With this 50 APO, the color coming out looks rich, deep and much like a nice slide film. As close as you can get in digital anyway. For color on the M, there is nothing like the 50 APO. From pop, punch, depth, and tone…this lens rocks color on the M.

Kids playing at a mall in Scottsdale AZ. Click the image for larger size to see the detail and color depth. Shot at f/2, which is where this lens SHINES.

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The 50 APO is a lens that brings a little bit of medium format to the Leica M. Not fully, but a hint of that look from file richness to detail to perfect sharpness and no distortion.

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Smooth..

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This lens, in my opinion, is meant to be shot at f/2. Wide open BABY!

With most lenses and camera systems such as DSLR’s we have been trained to know that stopping a lens down from its wide open aperture will always deliver better performance. In the case of the Leica 50 APO Summicron, I do not feel this is the case. While you will lose the slight vignette that is there at f/2 when stopping down to f/2.8, you will also start to lose some of the signature of the wide open look that this lens creates. When shot at f/2, this lens creates a look that is part classic, part modern but never in an analytical way (which is what I thought it was going to be when I first tested this lens over a year ago). It has a beautiful smooth presentation and at f/2 you get all of this character. Stopping the lens down, say to f/4..well, this is when you will start to lose some of the reason you paid so much for the lens as there are quite a few 50mm lenses out that there perform just about perfect by f/4.

So if you test this lens, buy this lens or borrow this lens make sure you are NOT afraid to shoot it wide open, which is where it has been optimized to be shot.

More images shot wide open at f/2 and  feel free to click them for larger versions! EXIF is embedded in each image. 

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Full Size files:

The files coming from the M 240 when this lens is used, to put it mildly, is the best I have ever seen the M 240 files. The complete lack of distortion, fitness or soft corners is amazing. There can be teeny amounts of CA but it is the best I have seen.

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This is a TORTURE test for CA. The 50 Summilux and 50 Noctilux would be full of CA in this shot. The 50 APO is amazing. 

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The 1st photo in this article, but this time full size…right click to open in a new window for best viewing

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One more full size…

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Wrapping up part 1 of this lens review

Again, this is only part 1 of a 2 or 3 part review. I have lots of shooting and comparing to do with the Leica 50 APO Summicron lens but so far, so good. It is a beautiful lens with amazing build and contrast and sharpness across the entire frame, even wide open at f/2. After my 1st couple of weeks with it I feel that I could be just as happy with a 50 Summilux or maybe even a 50 Zeiss Planar (well, almost as happy). While this lens surpasses those other lenses for all out performance, as I said early on, performance of a lens will not instantly make you a magical photographer. I feel that this lens is for those who crave, desire and lust after the “perfect” lens. I am on of those nerds myself, so I love it but I do have hesitations about spending so much money on this little guy, especially when that money could have been used elsewhere that is, in reality, more important. Still, I am having a blast shooting the lens and over the next few weeks I will be taking this lens to the always photo rich Comicon, to the California desert and Lazy Meadows Airstream park/hotel, Joshua Tree Park, San Francisco and all of the photo opps it has to offer, Long Beach, CA, the Queen Mary, and a few cool spots as I go on a 7-10 day road trip in about 2 weeks from today with the love of my life, Debby.

I will be posting part 2 when I return, so in about 3 weeks. I will also be doing comparisons with the original 50 Summicron and Zeiss 50 Planar, two other 50mm f/2 options. ;) So stay tuned and check back soon for all of the good stuff. I will leave you with a few more early shots with this lens and the Leica M. BTW, my 50 APO came from Ken Hansen ([email protected]) but no one has this lens in stock, there is a wait but you can put your name on that list. Or you can pick up a standard 50 cron or 50 lux or 50 summarit :)

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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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One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

 

Jun 052014
 

The Kelpies – Scotland’s Most Beautiful Sculptures?

By Jonathan McAdam

Dear Steve & Brandon,

I have been taking photographs for only about 9 months now, and |’m grateful for the inspiration and encouragement provided your wonderful site. These are the first images I have ever shared as I’m still learning the art of photography, but I wanted to introduce your readers to an interesting new photographic location which I certainly found it very inspiring.

Recently I visited ’The Kelpies’ in Falkirk – Scotland’s newest work of public art and tourist attraction. The twin sculptures of the Kelpies – mythical Sea-Horses in Scottish Folk-lore – rise approximately 100 feet above a new entrance lock to the Firth & Clyde canal, and are intended as an homage to the Equine heritage associated with Scottish Industry. The sculptures were designed by the Scottish Sculptor Andy Scott, and are very dramatic and quite beautifully realised in Stainless Steel. Although I live in England now, I grew up less than a mile from these sculptures, and it makes me quite proud to see such amazing works of art being commissioned in my home country. I believe the 1:10th scale models were widely admired when recently on display in New York, and I understand they have since toured elsewhere in the USA.

These photographs were taken on my Leica M with 21mm f/3.4 lens, which allowed me to get in really close to the sculptures. It was late afternoon in early May and the sky was very moody, giving the opportunity for some tricky (for me..), but dramatic photography – although I suspect the sculptures are so beautiful in the flesh that it would be hard for anyone to take a really bad photograph of them. Although the surrounding parkland will need some time to mature, I suspect this site will become quite iconic in the future.

Anyway, I hope you and your readers like these images.

With Best Regards,

Jonathan McAdam
St Helens
England

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May 212014
 

New York City with the Leica M

By Bob Boyd

Hey Steve and Brandon,

With the opening of the 9/11 Museum today, I was looking back through images from a family trip we took this March to New York City. The Memorial is always such sobering place to visit and I was moved to see single white roses placed on some of the names.

New York is a favorite for me and my wife and except for one evening of heavy rain, we had a beautifully bright, sunlit week and the images definitely reflect that.

My travel kit consists of the M and 4 lenses: 21, 35, 50, and 90mm.

For anyone interested in seeing the whole set of images, they can be found here:
http://www.bobboyd.net/Travel/032014-New-York/

Many thanks,

Bob Boyd
www.bobboyd.net

This is a 12 image stitch shot with the 21mm Summilux ASPH:

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35mm Summilux ASPH:

A flower left for a 9/11 victim on their birthday.

50mm Summilux:

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21mm Summilux:

The Guggenheim.

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30 Rockefeller Plaza

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The iconic Atlas statue at Rockefeller Center.

50mm Summilux:

Thunderstorm, Times Square.

My crew.
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My crew in the morning NYC light as we head out after breakfast.

Homeward…
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Goodbye NYC... Next stop... home.

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.

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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.

A6000 OOC JPEG with Kit Zoom

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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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