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.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

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 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)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

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:

9/11 Memorial & Museum

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…
(35mm Summilux)

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.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

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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Apr 292014
 

The Voigtlander 75mm f1.8 Heliar Classic Lens Review

by Johnny Ciotti

(from Steve: I will be reviewing this lens on the M 240 in the next 2 weeks. For now, here is a review from Johnny on the Sony A7! Thanks Johnny!)

With so many individuals moving on to the growing trend of the more sensible mirror less interchangeable lens camera bodies more than a few are finding a lacking in the tele range. Well, at least without destroying the smaller form factor by using larger SLR adapters and lenses or breaking the bank.

Voigtlander 75mm 1.8 Heliar Classic mounted on Sony a7 via Voigtlander VM-E close focus adapter

Voigtlander 75mm 1.8 Heliar Classic mounted on Sony a7 via Voigtlander VM-E close focus adapter

Enter the Voigtlander 75mm 1.8 Heliar Classic. Before getting into my thoughts I’d like to share with you a few tid bits of information in hopes of giving this some credibility and not just a “this guy bought the lens and rambled on about it” type of post. Being a photographer can mean many things to many people. A hobbyist, a professional, a collector, we all have different reasons for our purchases. So take what you will from this review but I’ve written it for the most decirning digital photographer who might enjoy premium quality at an affordable price. Myself being one of those that doesn’t care to own more than a few pieces of glass in the effort of simplifying the way he shoots. My clients shouldn’t have to pay for my gear acquisition syndrome when I can get the job done with a lot less.

As with most modern Voigtlander lenses, this 75mm is beautiful in a classic sense and refined to meet todays standards. No frills, no extras, just a clean black metal barrel and bright beautiful glass. Lens caps front and rear do as they should with my favored center pinch on the business end. Screw in metal hood feels wonderful and still allows for the front cap to be positioned properly when stored. All that needs to be visible is crisp and easy to read. No sloppy or unneeded branding to tarnish the over all aesthetic of this short tele focal lens.

Voigtlander 75mm Heliar Classic without lens hood attached

Voigtlander 75mm Heliar Classic without lens hood attached

The feel is better than what would be expected from such a bargain. The aperture ring clicks smoothly and precise with little effort. As effortless as it is to hop up or down a stop I’ve had no issue bumping into the wrong setting even with “rough” use. The same characteristics are followed by the easy to use manual focusing ring, clean and well dampened are the best way to describe this short throw. People often toss around the term “cheap” when they mean inexpensive, this lens is not “cheap” even though it is beyond affordable with a meager asking of sub $700 new.

The barrel extends slightly when focusing adding some length to this long piece of glass.

Barrel fully retracted

Barrel fully retracted

Barrel fully extended

Barrel fully extended

With having hit the ball out of the park in the presentation and tactile sensation department, I’d like to focus on the look the lens provides to the user while peering through it and not at it. Because this is what is important, right? You know, the images we make and not how awesome we look while making them. Voigtlander is not new to the lens manufacturing game. The company as a whole has been around since 1756, that’s not exactly a short stint. The new lenses have been manufactured by Cosina since 1999, another reputable name in optics. I hate to think of any piece of glass with such heritage as second-rate.

The lens provides a wonderful rendering of depth, sharpness, and contrast in appropriate proportions for such a piece of kit. The colors are as accurate as you are at insuring the proper white balance is selected. Vignetting is mild at most for a lens like this.

Vignetting

From left to right f1.8, f2, f2.8, f4

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From left to right f5.6, f8, f11, f16

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Clarity being one of the stronger aspects, taking a back seat only to the fantastic out of focus qualities and subject separation. The lens is more than sharp enough at f.18 for anything that needs to be shot at f1.8. Stopping down quickly takes these 3 groups of 6 conventional spherical elements from above adequate to what would be considered ridiculously sharp.

Bokeh

From left to right f1.8, f2, f2.8, f4

Boek-top

From left to right f5.6, f8, f11, f16

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The multi coated process allows for deep contrasting that compliments the in and out of focus portions of any well thought composition. The straight 10-bladed aperture creates a lovely organic display of bokeh that is typically only found in much pricier prime optics at this focal length.

Iris opened to f1.8

Iris opened to f1.8

Having used this lens in many situations I have noticed flaring occasionally in the studio environment where a flag might have not been used with other more modern designs. This isn’t necessarily crippling for a rather flawless lens as it is easily correctable in most situations. Outdoors I haven’t noticed any flaring as long as the lens hood is implemented.

When possible I highly recommend shooting with a lens hood/shade, especially when it is this good, as it increases contrast by not allowing stray light to bounce around in your nifty chunk of glass. Often times sharpness is confused with lack of contrast and can plague the reputation of lenses from the miss informing improper user. The lens hood should be considered a part of the lens design for delivering optimal image quality. Why skimp when you’ve paid for the tools to be made available to you?

Raquelle Lawrence was gracious enough to model for this lens review.

High contrast outdoor location for recent head shots. Voigtlander 75mm f1.8 Heliar Classic & Sony a7 stopped down to f9

High contrast outdoor location for recent head shots. Voigtlander 75mm f1.8 Heliar Classic & Sony a7 stopped down to f9

The compatibility of legacy glass has been often questioned with digital sensors and their performance together. I find in this particular combination between the Sony A7 and the Voigtlander 75mm f1.8 Heliar Classic that the two work together most desirably. User skill level and purpose for creating the image should be questioned as often as image quality. How sharp do you need the bottom right pixels to be if it’s a faded off-white stucco wall?

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100% corner crop also showing minor color fringing.

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This lens really wouldn’t be my first choice for something demanding critical corner to corner image quality. Use a tilt shift and/or stitch multiple frames if that is the case. Picking the proper technique and tool for the job will make things work much easier. Now what this lens does do well is allows for a no fuss operation in creating wonderful stories with heaps of character. This is really important for me as I’m a dedicated wedding and headshot photographer. My equipment needs to allow me to make connections with my subject in a natural way.

Are we really looking at corner sharpness?

Are we really looking at corner sharpness_

The biggest draw back of this lens is it having such a long minimum focusing distance. Common with rangefinder lenses, this can be problematic if you work in cramped conditions often. A false sense of breathing room can be created with the coupling of the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter. The two increase the usability of the lens and open up a new world of creative options while giving the ability to increase subject separation in close foreground objects.

VM-E Close Focus Adapter

VM-E Close Focus Adapter

Now while I seem to praise this lens in high regard for its technical merits I cannot stress enough that the joy of using the lens as an artists tool can often help produce more meaningful images for yourself or clients. The way it feels and operates is ever as important as how many coatings the elements have. From day one it felt like an extension of my eye, something that if it cost even more could not be afforded.

You can buy this lens and the adapter from CameraQuest by clicking HERE. 

Apr 292014
 

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An Englishman in New York.

By Paul Bartholomew

After following this site for a number of years and being intrigued by how a rangefinder camera experience might work out for me, I finally pushed the boat out and bought a pretty pristine used M9. My first lens was a Carl Zeiss f/1.5C Sonnar – I felt it would match the sort of portrait and model work I normally do with my 5D MKIII.

As a low depth-of-field junkie, I had this lens calibrated to focus at f/1.5 (it focus shifts and is set at f/2.8 by default but can be adjusted). Although I love the lens (and I still have and use it), it was the wrong first lens for me. Once I had the Leica, I was eager to get out of the studio and on to the street. Once there, I found the field of view of the 50mm was too restrictive for street work – I knew I would need another lens at some point.

Then, a few months ago I needed to go to a book-writing symposium in Michigan – both my wife and I were co-authors and we decided to spend a couple of days in New York en route. I knew that I would need that new lens
if I wanted to get some nice street images while I was there. After much deliberation looking at reviews of 35mm and 28mm lenses at this site (thanks Steve!) and others, I ended up buying the Carl Zeiss ZM 28mm f/2.8 Biogon. I’d already worked out that I was going to be shooting with a zone focusing technique at around about f/5.6 and so I felt that the Zeiss 28mm f/2.0 lens would just cost me more and be larger without giving me much more bang for my buck (or pound!). Of course I did look at Leica and Voigtlander options too, but the Carl Zeiss offerings just seemed to hit that sweet spot of image quality, build quality and price!

So, how did the lens choice work out? Below I offer a set of images configured as a bit of a photo-essay. All images were shot with the little 28mm lens, all have been square cropped and all were taken within walking distance of our midtown hotel. It was tempting to try to just shoot the edgy and the eclectic, but instead I wanted to acknowledge my identity as a tourist – an Englishman in New York, and to produce images that captured that context.

Below then, I first offer an index image to the photo-essay series and then the individual photos in a sequence. After the images, I finish this report with a few words by way of reviewing this great little lens and offer my thoughts on my adoption of the Leica M system. But first…

9 Blocks: An Englishman in New York

Image 1: Lure of the Empire

Lure of the Empire

Image 2: Lady on the Corner

The Woman on the Corner
Image 3: A populated space

A Populated Space
Image 4: Argument

Argument
Image 5: Nonstop

Nonstop
Image 6: Lunchtime

Lunchtime
Image 7: Skate

Skate
Image 8: View

View

Image 9: Don’t Walk

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Why a Leica M?

Prior to buying my M9 I had hankered for a way of shooting that was more involving than the technically focussed SLR experience. I’d had a Olympus E410, a Canon 5DII and then my current Canon 5DIII. All capable tools – the 5DIII especially, but the experience of shooting DSLRs is, to my mind, rather like flying-by-wire – you control the electronics of the camera and the camera takes the shot. It’s all a bit sterile. My initial foray into trying to pull myself more into the shooting experience was to buy a Lensbaby Composer for my Canon – it forced me to focus manually, take my time and choose my moment. All good training for the Leica M to come!

When I invested in the Leica I was rewarded with exactly the sense of engagement I had hoped for – only it was much harder to shoot than I had anticipated! Using my 50mm f/1.5 at f/1.5 on the street was laughable - everybody moved too quick, I couldn’t keep up. Stepping the aperture down and zone focusing gave better results but the 50mm frame size was way too small for me to get decent results. I knew I needed a wider lens and (as you know) the 28mm f/2.8 was my choice.

So how does the lens perform? Well, on the streets of New York (and elsewhere since) it has been a fine choice. It feels really nicely made, the lens hood I bought for my 50mm seems to work just as well on the 28mm (I like to use a hood to protect the front element) and the quality of the images I have been getting – in terms of sharpness, contrast is exemplary.

Couple the image quality with a compact form factor and ladies and gentlemen we have a winner! Although I have little experience of other lenses on the M system, I still recommend this lens highly. I do have a bunch of Canon L
lenses and I would say the little Zeiss 28mm is my second favourite of all the lenses I own – second only to the rather special Canon 85mm f/1.2L II.

I know my M experience is limited, so perhaps I’ll splash out on a Leica lens for my M9 at some point – just to compare, but in the meantime the price and quality point of the Zeiss lens line up remains tempting and furthermore I’d contend that the ZM 28mm f/2.8 Biogon is right up there at the zenith of the quality/price curve.

Thanks for reading.

Paul

Nine Blocks

Apr 252014
 

Leica buys Steve Huff Photo!?!?! Whaaaat?

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Hahahaha, got ya didn’t I? No, Leica has not bought this site even though a very few of you are leaving idiotic comments in my latest T review (see it here) implying that they did just because I loved the new T. I mean, really guys?

In any case, no..the site is not and has not been for sale and I will keep on and continue doing what I love to do here each and every day. That means that yes, more passionate reviews will be here over the years when something comes along that tugs at my heart and soul. Cameras that have done this in the past? Olympus E-M1 (where I was accused of being paid off by Olympus)..the Sony RX1 and RX1r (where I was accused of being in Sony’s back pocket)…the Leica M (where I was accused of just being a “fanboy”) or even the Nikon Df (where I was accused of now being a Nikon fanboy and paid by Nikon). Again, these are just comments from a very few, a teeny percentage of those who comment but it is absolutely ridiculous to even have one comment like this.

It is so funny to me that when I write a review with a lot of negatives or issues then people seem to get happy. Why is that? Are people just so negative and bitter that they love it when negative things are written? One reason I made the choice to NOT review cameras I do not like is because of this fact! See, I am ANTI negativity in life and ever since adopting this 5 years ago my life has changed for the better in every way, shape and form. A total transformation in my stress level (I have ZERO), happiness (I could not be more happier), and joy of life. It does not come from money (I am far far far from rich, live in a small cheap house in a not so great neighborhood) it comes from just being happy and knowing that we have one life to live here on this earth. Why ruin it by being bitter, nasty and negative all of the time? If you do not like something then so be it but to attack the messenger, that is nonsense.

Negativity come from jealousy, hate and an overall lack of happiness in life. It can be turned around if you really want it to.

To come to this site and leave idiotic comments such as “Leica must have paid Steve” or “Steve should change the name to stevehuffleica.com” or “Sony paid off Steve” or “Olympus owns Steve“..well, those are just comments that spawn from hatred, jealousy and people who are just not so happy in life…or people who own camera brand A when I praise camera brand B, something that fanboys do to attack me when I am not so nice to their chosen brand.

Many people in life (and I come across many of them) love to put others down because in some odd way it makes the feel better for a moment or two. They feel like they know it all, when they know absolutely NOTHING about what they are commenting about! I always laugh when people leave expert opinions on cameras they have never seen, touched or used. It really makes me laugh out loud sometimes. My written reviews are from experience using the cameras, and I use ALL cameras even though I do not write about all of them. So my opinions are based on actual use. Does not mean you have to agree with me, as we are all different in what we like, but what you read is always my honest opinion. Period.

To those saying I have always been paid off by Leica, let me fill you in on a history lesson because yes, you need to learn as you know nothing about my situation with Leica.

Back when I started version 1 of this website I started it by reviewing Leica gear. The Leica M8 to be exact. I started this very website (over at the now defunct stevehuffphotos.com, with an “s” at the end) 6 years ago only because I loved the M8 so much that I wanted to share my love for it with anyone who would be willing to read it. I did NOT want to start a review site at that time, I just wanted to write down my real thoughts from the heart on that camera that was getting some bad press from those who never even touched one (users, not reviewers). Again, the know it alls who knew nothing about the camera! I was taking the best photos of my life with that camera and those little M lenses and I thought it was an amazing thing, even if it had IR problems and high ISO noise after 640.

So yes it had issues, (which I wrote about in that review) but for its time, there was nothing quite like it in IQ or Usability/Feel. For me, it was a revelation and made me want to go out and use it every day, and I did just that. To me, that is #1 in a camera before ANYTHING else and is why I despise bug DSLR’s for daily use. Sure DSLRs have great quality and IQ but when they are so huge and heavy with a decent lens attached it makes me want to NOT use them! So I fell for the M8 hard because at the time, it was the only thing around that was high quality and inspired me.

After writing the M8 review on the old iWeb blog I started something very strange happened. After just a few days I started getting e-mails from those who found and read the review telling me how much they enjoyed it. Many said they went on to order the M8 for themselves. “Wow” I said to myself. That is so cool. I was able to convey my emotions and love for this “electronic memory maker” so much that a few readers bought one! It ranked up on the 1st page of google after a few days somehow and people were seeing it and some people were buying the M8 due to what I wrote.

Then more time goes by and each week is a repeat of the last with even more emails. I’d say each week I would get double the e-mail about that Leica M8 review. It was crazy. Then something really cool happened. I received an e-mail from the music artist Seal telling me he really enjoyed my review. Then he said “we should chat sometime about it”. Now here I was, living in Indiana in a VERY small town in a VERY inexpensive house with literally NO income (was taking a year off after selling a small Ice Cream shop) and all I did was share my thoughts on a Leica M8 camera and I was getting e-mail after e-mail thanking me and now and e-mail from a guy whose music I used to jam in my car and home. How cool is that? I ended up shooting his Chicago show a couple of months later and it was an amazing experience for me, as that was one of my goals in life..to shoot a concert like that with no restrictions. One of my images made his next tour program from that night.

As time went on Seal and I became great friends. He then introduced me to a Leica dealer named Ken Hansen who I immediately called to place a Leica order for the then new 28 Elmarit ASPH lens. I owned the M8 and then went for the 28 as my next lens to see how I would like it. Ken asked how I heard of him and I told him I was told all about him by Seal so he sent out the lens without getting payment up front. “Send me a check when you get it” he said. Wow. Amazing.

In any case I soon came up with an idea that would help benefit me and Ken but I had no idea if Ken would go for it as my site was so new with such little traffic. At the time there was no lens rental shop where I could rent Leica equipment so I asked Ken if I could rent lenses from him, review them and then send them back. I would pay him $50 or so for a week or two and in exchange he would get a link mention telling everyone that he supplied me with the lens. He was game for it and sent me a few lenses to try out. He told me he would send me used lenses if he had them and if he sent me a new lens he would sell it as used at a discount but he was up for seeing how it would go.

So I started reviewing Leica lenses on the M8 early on and each review got better and better and I really started to enjoy doing  them. No one online at the time was doing “real world” reviews. They were wall old school DP review tech style that were long and boring, to me anyway. None of them were done by anyone with real passion for photography. It was all about the money and business.  So I was indeed a bit different and was the very 1st real world review site that included all real world use photos, intense passion and even some personal posts that let everyone know just who I was and am. I even coined that real world term and because I reviewed in the style that I always wanted to see, and I was passionate at doing it it started to grow and grow. Much like the rock band KISS and how they started (now celebrating their 40th anniversary).

They started KISS because they wanted to be the band that they always wanted to see. At the time, most bands went up on stage in T-shirts and jeans and sang while standing still. KISS came out in makeup, outfits, and used fire and bombs while prancing around like maniacs. It worked because they brought excitement to the stage and with their passion and excitement at full force it brought the excitement level of the audience to the top. It was a great formula and one I used when creating this site.

I wanted to see a camera review site that I liked yet no one was doing it, so I decided after a few reviews to do just that and I dedicated myself to working on it every single day, and I did.

After the new reviews the site traffic was growing steadily and Ken Hansen decided I did not need to pay him a penny for the rentals. (as I was helping him by spreading the word about his services so he was getting a few orders). Ken has always been an amazing dealer and today I consider him the ONE guy that really made it possible for me to do this website, a true friend. Without his “rentals” early on this site would not exist today. Leica was no help at all back then and refused to even answer an email from me when I requested gear for review. That is, until traffic started to really grow and they started seeing the reviews and comments. Then they started to send me lenses by request and I no longer needs the Ken rentals ;)

As the new Noctilux came out, Leica sent me one to try for a few days. I always only had a few days, usually 2-4 days with a Leica product before they wanted it back. But I was just happy to get review samples. They then sent me a WATE for review.

As time went on Ken always helped me when he could and Seal helped me tremendously by inviting me on a couple of his tours and things just clicked. As I was on the Seal tour I met a ton of people who were fans of mine as well! It was so odd when walking in the airport one day with Seal and his band and someone ran up and said “are you…STEVE HUFF“! Lol. It was amusing to say the least. But that was not a regular occurrence. It happened sparingly but was still very cool to meet those who enjoyed my reviews and talk cameras for a bit.

So the more I shot with Leica the more I became attached to the cameras and lenses. I shot the entire Seal tours with a Leica M9, Noctilux and 35 cron. Many said I was nuts to trust it but I never had an issue that wasn’t fixable (until my noctilux fell apart during a show). I even managed to get an album cover using the M9 and Noctilux. So to me, Leica has always been my camera of choice due to MANY reasons, not just image quality. It has given me some of my best memories and usability also goes a long way with me. I remember  one night Seal handed me a Canon 1d MKIV or something like that and told me to try it out for a show. It was nice, it was HUGE, it was a beast and weighed as much as my Mini cooper. I did not like the experience of using it. I missed my M9 and manually focusing as it was a challenge. Snapping away with blazing AF and a zoom was NOT a challenge for me. It was boring and dull to me so I ditched that 1d and went back to the M9. Ahhh, heaven.

As time went on and the site grew and grew and more users were leaving comments, anytime I reviewed a Leica product I was called a “fanboy” by a few in the comments section. The Leica “haters” who hated Leica for one reason or another but probably because they could not afford it or because they see Leica as an “elite” brand who offer no value for the money, which is 100% not true BTW.  For the record, I was one who could never afford Leica but because I skimped on everything else in life I managed to get by with the M8, then M9 and a lens or two. I was not rich, not even close to it..not even well off but I knew that if I could own one thing it would be a Leica M. It gave me enjoyment in life.

As for the silly Leica hating commenters, for whatever reason they were always there, the minority of course, but they would come to my FREE site and bitch that I wrote nice things about a product that did amazing things for me. Made no sense. Over time I learned to laugh at these individuals as they were clearly so bitter in life that they felt better by attacking me. I would just reply with “I am a Leica fanboy 100%! I love their cameras as to me there is nothing like them and if that makes me a fanboy then so be it”!

As time went on I continued to review Leica and other camera brands that ticked my buttons. As Micro 4/3 was taking off with the E-P1 and GX7 one time Leica told me via email “stop reviewing that Micro 4/3 so much and write more about Leica”. This is from someone who is no longer with the Leica company but I responded with a chuckle like “yea, right”. I thought that was odd. But the more I wrote about other cameras the more I was ignored by Leica. Did not really matter to me at all but I thought it was a bit rude. I always had Ken to get my back if I need a product for review so all was good with me. Time marched on, Leica announced the X2 and Monochrom. I was invited to Berlin, surprisingly, to see the launch of the New revolutionary MM. I flew from AZ to Berlin (courtesy of Leica which surprised me) to witness the launch and I thought I would be able to test the camera so I could write a 1st look report and inform all of the readers here about the capabilities of the MM!

That was not the case.

When I arrived I saw familiar faces like Thorsten Overgaard, Eric Kim, Jono Slack, Sean Reid and many others who were also flown in for the event (though I think Thorsten drove). We all had dinner, had fun and attended the big shindig that night. What I saw was mostly over the top people with bow ties and suites, and from what I gathered, very rich people who were also acting the part. Nothing at all like me or my personality. I said to myself “So is this the real Leica? Not many here are anything like me..maybe they do want these cameras for the red dot and the prestige”. It was clear many there did only want that but there were also a handful there who were just like me, passionate about their cameras and photography. All was not lost.

I walked the room and was stopped every few feet by someone who recognized me from my reviews. I chatted with those people and had a great time. Then the camera was launched and then it was over. What? I do not even get to touch an MM? I flew across the USA to Berlin for a 3 hour event without even getting to touch a Leica MM? I was surprised by this for a few reasons but one of them was because a few of the guys I know who also write reviews.who were here..well, they all had an MM (besides me and Thorsten) in hand, with them. But when I asked my contacts at Leica they gave me a quick “let me see what I can do” and then ignored me and dodged me most of the night. Even my then buddy Seal called one of the top Leica guys and said “you really should get a camera into Steve’s hands so he can review it. It would be beneficial”. But no luck. I did not expect to take home an MM for review, just to hold one, fire off a few shots. I mean, they had them there but for some reason was not allowing me to see one. So why fly me there? Just thought it was odd.

At the end of the night I went to my room and wrote a report on the event and mentioned there were no cameras to be found for me to try. Maybe they were not happy that I was covering the launch with my Olympus E-M5 :)

The next morning it was magically arranged for me to test an MM camera. It was presented to me in one way but the reality of it was that it was set up by Leica through a third party to allow me ONE HOUR of use of the camera, with a chaperone. :)

That was good enough for me as I spent that hour walking the street of rainy berlin and was able to report on the camera so all of the readers here could see some info and my input on it. It was perfect and worked out great.

I was told I would get a review sample soon. But that was drug out and I was one of the last to get one for review. It was fine with me though as I did not care, I just wanted to review it. Besides, Ken Hansen would have helped me out if Leica didn’t so it did not mater to me. In fact, I preferred to go through Ken at this point and did purchase one from him.

Fast forward to the M. By now Leica was not sending me review samples anymore. In fact, my one contact there was gone and no one wold reply to my emails. I remember even Thorsten Overgaard trying to figure out what was happening and he called Dr. Kauffman on my behalf to tell him that they should really set me up with a contact in the USA for review samples. Still, no go though I was invited (but not flown out) for the M launch after Thorstens phone call. But I could not make it as it was the same time as my Photo Cruise! No M 240 review sample for me…

…So Ken hooked me up with the M 240 as I was put on his pre-order list as soon as I knew it was in the works. In other words, I was at the top of his pre-order list because I put myself there before anyone. I may have been 2nd or 3rd but I was able to by one from Ken. So I did a huge review of the M 240 (here) praising it as the best thing ever, and to me it was and still is (I still own it)! I love this camera. During that review there was so much hatred from Leica bashers and I was called the same things by those same few people and a few new ones who could not fathom the value of an M…”fanboy”, “Leica paid off Steve”, etc. Little did they know that Leica was not even communicating with me at this time and they did not even send me a review unit yet I was hearing things like “Steve gets free cameras from Leica, that is why he is positive to them“. But I let it bounce off of me as always and did not care as I still loved the Leica M 240 and knew it was the camera for me and I would never change my stance when it is all based on honesty, as all of my reviews are. If there was any bitterness between me and Leica that did not mean I would hate their camera, not at all. If it is good it is good. Expensive yes, but for me worth it.

Then came the X-Vario where I tore it apart and exposed the weaknesses and praised the positives. I was hard on it because it has a few issues that bothered me in real world use, though IQ was not one of them. After that review I had emails from some saying that I pissed off Leica! How could I piss them off if I was just being honest? Being honest about a camera is how it should be so the companies can FIX the issues in a later version or with firmware. Same thing I did with Fuji. I was hard on them because they had issues, real issues that other cameras did not have, at least in my eyes. They fixed just about all of those now in the X-T1. That is how companies get feedback. But a few of these camera companies are something else. Write bad things and they ignore you (as Fuji does with me to this day) but write positive things and they love you. Them moral of the Story is that I am always honest in what I write, it comes from the heart. Any excitement you see or read is legitimate and is how I truly feel. I could care less if that means a camera company stops sending me review samples because today I can just buy or rent them if I want to review them.

Paid off by anyone I am not.

So with the X-Vario I predicted a sales flop and it was/is. I predicted the X2 would not even come close to the X1 sales, it did not. I predicted the X1 would sell in droves..it did. I predicted the M9 and M 240 would do very well, they did and are. So my track record is good when predicting Leica sales.

With the new T I predict a winner for Leica. They WILL sell a ton of these just as they did the original X1. I say that not because I am paid off by Leica, but because I truly feel that after using the new camera for just a a week. It is a good product and as I said in my review, to those who like to own nice things, including a camera, then the T will be appealing to them. There is nothing wrong with the T, it is a highly capable camera and produces beautiful files from the camera. I could also care less if the sensor is older..even if it was 10 years old I would not care as long as it performed, and it does. Plain and simple. Is it the perfect dream camera? NO! Not even close but it is the 1s Leica to break ground and be original, and yes, it is original in its build, feel, in use and quality.

When I made the Sony RX1 my camera of the year for 2102 I was labeled a Sony fanboy .When I made the Olympus E-M1 the camera of the year  for 2013 over the Leica M, I was labeled an Olympus fanboy and many wondered why I did not make the M 240 my pick. When I tore apart the Fuji X-Pro 1, I was labeled a Fuji hater who only loved Leica and Sony. When I praised the Nikon Df I was instantly a “Nikon fanboy” which made me laugh out loud. I mean, to those saying these things..are you really that miserable in life that you have to sit around on web sites like mine just to make bitter and mean comments that have zero truth to them? Does it really make you feel better about yourself? If so, then you may need help. :)

I mean, ridiculous statements and comments that are not only rude but disrespectful to me..the one who works day in and day out to provide FREE information while getting very little back in the way of monetary compensation. I do this as it is my a passion of mine. Something I love to do. I live a simple life in a small cheap house, a small car and not much in life besides my cameras and HiFi because I love it. I would not have it any other way as it is a part of me. If you do not like what I say then there is an easy solution! DO NOT READ what I write! Go on, I dare you! The funniest thing is that those who complain always come back for more. They can not get away from the site and read all reviews I write. I guess that is why this site now enjoys the success that it does. The haters are even regulars :)

No matter what company makes a camera..if it is good and gets me excited to shoot it then I am in and will state my honest feelings about it.

As for me and Leica, well yes they did supply me with the T for review but in all reality, they had no choice. Look at the review. It has now had over 150,000 views and well over 400 comments in about 28 hours. That is a HUGE amount of exposure for them and the new camera. If it was a bad camera I would have said so. It is what it is! I am happy to work with any and all camera companies to test and do real world reviews of their products but beware, I will be honest. Like I said, it is a passion of mine and I will never go through the motions and rush a review. When I really like something, wether that is from Leica, Sony, Olympus, Nikon, etc then you will indeed know it.

So there you go. To all of you who have been coming here over the years I thank you all for your support, friendship, kindness and help in keeping this baby of mine going. To those who come here to bitch and moan, I do not feel you should come here but I appreciate you as well as yo do indeed add to my hit count at the end of the day! To those who will be offended at what I said here then I am guessing you will leave a nasty comment (never fails) in reply yet again. Well, it will be deleted if you do or not approved. Not dealing with it and it has no place here (one guy who felt offended and said I aimed my post at him dared me to approve his comment..seriously?). Don’t like it, move on back over to the other sites that welcome such nonsense and hate.

I hope you all have a great weekend and see you back here on Monday! BUT there is more to come today so check back later :) I will be out this weekend with the Mitakon 50 0.95 for E mount with the A7 and new A6000 (which is pretty sweet BTW).

1st test shot with the A6000 and Mitakon 50 0.95 at 0.95! This lens will focus as close as .5 meters. 

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Mar 042014
 

LEICA M MONOCHROMATIC IMAGES

By Michael Nemlich

I gain so much from yours as well as others posts, so I would be honored to contribute some in revenge. These days I use the M (240) following M9, M8 and Digilux 3. Since I do a lot of B&W images, before I moved to the 240 I considered the attractive and tempting MM; but my left side brain resisted, for one and only (good) reason, as follows:

According the phrase: “a picture is worth a thousand words”’ let’s talk (4) pictures:

The image “A” is of a scene in Manasseh-Heights. The image is chromatic, as a standard human eye sees it.

If this scene would have been taken with the MM it would be seen as image “B” with very close tones of both fields. No much can be done to distinguish between them.

Nevertheless, converting the original (color “A”) image to monochrome IN PP has the inherent option to influence the grey tones via the color channels; so lightening the oranges and darken the greens yields the image “C” and vice-versa results the image “D”. For me this was the one and only – but crucial – reason to stay with a ‘color’ sensor for B&W photography. Some short experience with the MM encouraged this theorem.

I hope this short essay helps.

All the Best. Nemlich

nemlich.leicaimages.com and www.beshumma.com

A

B

C

D

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