Apr 022015
 

There is no “I” in Team

by John Tuckey

Team Efforts

I wouldn’t advise anyone to overload a shoot with unnecessary bodies. The fewer people cluttering your space, the better. The less people to organise the better. It’s an absolute if you’re trying to create a sense of intimacy or intrigue and a simple practicality when you’re working to a budget or a tight time scale as most of us are. But ‘one man and his lens’ is not always enough – indeed, modern professional work is hardly ever created so. It’s a creative collaboration between the photographer, an art director, a stylist, a make up artist, a hair stylist, a lighting technician and possibly a set dresser. That amazing image in magazine ‘X’ is usually the result of a tight team who have a good working dynamic – not ‘one man and his lens’.

If you’re thinking about crossing this river and working your shots with a team it can be daunting at first. My advice is to keep it simple and pick your team carefully, don’t waste your resources and know who you can and can’t live without. I get my moments, but I’m still no pro – so I won’t worry about an assistant until i try a complicated location set-up. And a stylist isn’t even on my list unless I get involved in a commercial fashion shoot and the client specifically requests one – and even then they will probably be chosen by the art director.

So I’d suggest that for an amateur or hobbyist, the bodies to make sure you have covered on a model orientated shoot are the make up artist and the hair stylist. Sometimes the model can cover this off herself, but indispensable doesn’t even come close to describing the best I’ve worked with. And without even thinking I can give you three very good reasons why they’re always worth stretching the budget for.

Transformation

A skilled makeup artist can simply transform a face. Try these two of Emily, one with ‘normal’ self done makeup and the Next from a Make Up artist.

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The Devil is in the Detail

Much of my work revolves around vintage themes. Having the right make up or a particular hair style makes the world of difference. In these portraits of Olivia, the lighting may well have achieved the look on its own, but the work of the hair stylist in those thirties style fingerwaves added the polish – making the vintage feel of the final image effortless and complete.

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Tricks, Shortcuts and FX

These Lonsdale shots aren’t just about beauty and boxing, but also strength, character and control. The make up artist on this shoot pulled the FX off with ease: Jammy the model was engaged with the concept and we got some great shots as a result.

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Saving Time in Post

Doesn’t digital mean make up artists are a waste of money? If you don’t think of the hours you’ll spend in post-production as money, then I’ll grant you that a hair or make up artist might not be your best use of budget. But I’d rather get it right for real on the day and trade that time in front of a screen for more time with a camera thanks – a good MUA allows that.

If you are interested in my images or my workshops you can follow me on facebook at http://www.facebook/jrtvintage, on twitter where I’m @jrtvintage, at my own site at http://john.tuckey.photography or on my gallery page at Saatchi Art http://www.saatchiart.com/jrtvintage

Credits:

Models: Emily, Olivia Harriett, and Jammy Lou
http://purpleport.com/portfolio/oliviaharriet/
http://purpleport.com/portfolio/raspberryjam/

Emily and Jammys Make Up: James Minahan

https://www.facebook.com/pages/James-Minahan-Makeup-artist/482722908502345?pnref=lhc

Olivia’s Hair: Le Keux Salon
http://www.lekeuxvintagesalon.co.uk/
Best regards

John Tuckey

Mar 272015
 

One Camera, One Lens and One Faraway Destination

By Fahad A

Hey Brandon,

Thank you for featuring my previous post I shared earlier this year.

Last summer I decided to go on a quick vacation somewhere far, somewhere I have never been before or even thought about visiting. Looked up the map, found Korea to be distant, far, interesting and not top of mind destination for someone who wants to roam around and take pictures.

Without any preconceptions about South Korea, I took a plane to Seoul, accompanied with a small suitcase that barely carries a couple of shirts, and a backpack that for my laptop and camera.

Few hours before the flight, I had a quick debate with myself about which gear should I take along with my Leica M + Summicron 50mm (V4), should i take the tiny Fuji 100s ? or should I take along the Nokton 35mm 1.2.

I decided to keep both Fuji and Nokton lens at home. went to Seoul with only one camera, and one lens! which means I’m stuck with 50mm focal length for the entire trip.

Did I regret it? I don’t think so. I enjoyed the limitation of only one lens. and how I should adapt with the focal length rather than replacing it or take out another camera with a different lens whenever I need to.

I might have missed few shots that were easier with a wider lens, however I’d sacrifice them anytime for the experience I got from limiting myself to 50mm.

Fahad A

For the full set, please take a look here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fahad85/sets/72157648593556971/

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Mar 202015
 

Battle of the Champions. Part 2. The Leica 50 APO.

by Brad Husick 

See Part 1 HERE.

At the request of several readers, I have conducted some new tests using the Leica 50mm APO Summicron f/2 lens on three camera bodies: the Sony A7II using the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter, the Leica M240 and the Leica Monochrom.

All these are shot RAW, wide open at f/2 and indoor shots are at ISO 1600, outdoor at ISO 200. All other camera settings were left on AUTO (WB, exposure, etc.)

The photos in this series are taken from the same positions in the same composition as the previous “Battle of the Image Champions” article, so I won’t include the full frames here again. These are all 100% crops and are labeled with the camera used. The indoor lighting matches the previous series. The outdoor conditions were overcast today, no wind.

The comparisons that include the Monochrom use a simple 100% desaturation in Lightroom rather than a more ideal black and white conversion that I would use if these were meant to be shown or printed for their artistic qualities. Again, these are not meant to highlight my skills as a photographer but rather to show the differences between cameras using the same high quality lens.

Enjoy and good shooting. -Brad

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Feb 202015
 

Pre-Order the Leica M-P 240 “Safari” Edition

Leica is at it again and this time they have created a special edition Leica M-P Type 240 giving it the Safari treatment! I remember the M8.2 Safari Edition and today we have the latest and greatest M in the famous Olive color. This one comes with a 35 Summicron lens with round hood, a genuine leather strap and even a leather SD card holder. This is a limited run and will set you back a cool $10,000 or $1000 LESS than a standard M 240 and 35 cron, and you do not even get the extras with the standard version. So this is actually a bit of a ‘deal’ for a unique M 240.

Again, Normal price of a Leica M-P 240 and 35 cron? $11,000! So for this SE set you are saving $1000 and getting extras such as the strap, wallet for your SD cards and the unique round hood for the 35 Summicron. Not bad as usually these special editions are coming in at $2-$4k MORE than the standard pricing.

 

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From the PopFlash.com website:

Leica Camera presents the Leica M-P Set ‘SAFARI’. This set comprises of the Leica M-P (Typ 240) Safari edition, Leica Summicron-M 35mm/f2 ASPH with round metal lens hood, a full grain cowhide carrying strap and matching SD & business card holder.

Leica’s safari/olive edition cameras date back to 1960 with the Leica M1 ‘Olive‘. Made initially for the military, the safari/olive cameras’ unique color stands out. Over the years, a handful of safari/olive editions were produced. Many of these limited edition cameras are highly prized collectibles.

The Leica M-P Set ‘SAFARI’ has an olive lacquered top cover, leatherette and bottom plate. The shutter speed dial, the On/Off switch, the release button, the hot shoe and some other details have a silver finish. The engraving on the top cover is reminiscent of the first safari camera in 1960 and has the classic Leica logo inscribed on one line and the wording ‘WETZLAR GERMANY’ on the second line. The 35mm/f2 ASPH has a silver chrome finish with a matching classic round metal lens hood. This set comes in a new packaging including a presentation box.

For the record, used M8.2 Safari kits go for anywhere between $7-$9k, and it also sold for $10k when new. So if you buy this, use it for several years you may only lose $1-$2k when and if you ever sell it. Not bad for 5 years of use. That is the lowest depreciation I have seen with any digital camera gear.

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You can preorder the new M-P 240 Safari Set at PopFlash.com HERE. 

You can also order it though Ken Hansen ([email protected]), The Pro Shop, or Leica Store Miami. 

There will only be 1500 sets made.

Feb 202015
 

Friday Film: Making a Case for the Voigtlander Bessa

By Michael McFaul

Hi Steve!

Wanted to share a post on my views of this wonderful little camera.

With the purchase of the Bessa in early summer of last year, I’ve had several months to put it through its paces. It has gone through about 4 dozen rolls of film, family trips, two different lenses, the occasional groans of angst and the multiple feelings of joy. Yet, I still love this camera.

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My positive experiences with the Bessa has led me to purchase of the Voigtlander 21mm f/4 and a soon to be purchased 75mm f/2.5. One main positive is the camera’s heft. It is just a solid, dense camera; coming in at a clean 1lb. And yet if one were to look at stock photos of the Bessa on camera sites, it would come across as cheap and plastic-y via the stock image. Not at all. The body is solid metal with the film spool, shutter button and advance crank being the only items that are plastic. I think. Nonetheless, outside of the occasional battery change, this camera will last you for many years.

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Another positive is the camera’s ergonomics, it just fits into the palm, thumb, and fingers of my hand. The raised rubber grip on the back of the camera works comfortably with the palm of my hand, allowing the thumb to rest against the grip. Initially, the placement of the strap lugs were of an annoyance, yet after several uses, you realize the importance of its location; for it allows you to place your index finger on the trigger, with the lugs between your index and remaining three fingers, allowing them to wrap nicely around the camera’s body. However, the positioning of the lugs slightly below the top plate of the camera means it faces slightly skyward when hung from the straps around your neck.

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I will say that the camera’s 1:1 finder ratio really is fantastic. It’s bright, big and clear. Yet when it comes to shooting with 40mm lens, I tend to wear contacts. The 40 frame lines within the finder are inconveniently tucked into the upper corners of the viewfinder. And if your strictly a glasses wearer, you’ll have a difficult time framing your image for you’ll find yourself having to poke your eye up/down, left/right to get correct composition. Non glasses wearers, no problem. But I will say that tucked within the 40 lines is a 90 as well, and it really acts as a helpful composing tool; it’s perfectly centered with the 40. Additionally, if you’re primarily a 50mm shooter with a stock pile of Leica, Zeiss, Jupiter, Canon or Voigtlander lenses, this camera is for you. I can’t recommend it enough. You’ll be given the 50 frame lines, nice and clean with no 75 or 90 squeezed within it. And whether you wear glasses or not, you’ll be able to see the 50 lines through the viewfinder. Plus it’s obviously much larger than 0.72/0.85 finders from Leica. Just for this reason alone, I’m considering the sale of my 40/1.4 to help fund the purchase of a Zeiss 50/1.5 Sonnar. I want that ‘classic’ Zeiss ‘3D’ pop! :)

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Anyhow, if there’s one thing that’s still taking some getting used to, it’s the camera’s metering. I’ll admit a lot of it is user error, too. Upon further research, I’m learning that it’s a rangefinder thing as well. Previously I shot a lot in AE mode and felt I was getting 7 to 8 frames per 36 roll over exposed. Lately, to the benefit of me and learning, I’ve mainly been shooting in manual. Even then, as a predominantly b&w shooter, I’m learning to meter for the grey/mid tones within the scene and I’m having a lot more success.

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Some of the photos enclosed are from Ilford HP5 pushed to 800 and Tri-X at box speed. I believe every image was done with a B+W yellow/orange filter, too…which I highly recommend. It helps cut through haze, sharpen the image, give a bit more contrast, darken the sky, and lighten the skin tone for portraits. Plus, it acts as a ND filter with a 2 stop exposure comp…especially helpful with any Leica film M and their 1/1000th top speed. Which by the way, is another positive of the Bessa, it’s 1/2000th top shutter speed. I have developed a few rolls in the past myself with Ilford DD-X, but I own a terrible scanner (along with a general knack for being impatient) and have an overall distrust of pharmacy photo departments. All these shots were developed and scanned through a company called Indie Film Lab. It’s pricey, but for special occasions, it’s worth it. There is also a lab called Little Film Lab that’ll scan your already developed negatives on their high-end scanners at a reasonable price, which is where I send my developed b&w rolls.

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For those that enjoy shooting at a 50mm focal length, along with a collection of 50mm lenses and enjoy shooting film…I’d certainly give this camera consideration. For others that have never really forayed into film and looking to experience a rangefinder…I’d give this camera consideration. If anything else, this camera has temporarily shutdown my GAS and constant research for new cameras. The Oly EM5 is somewhat collecting dust on the shelf (love this camera and its color output), but it’s not going to be replaced anytime soon with the EM5 Mark II.

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That’s the short and sweet of it.

Cheers!

-Michael

Feb 172015
 

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The Leica M 240 – Plasti Dipped!

By Darren Wong

As an industrial designer, ux architect and general photo dude, I’m pretty fond of the processes and physical tools in which we create our work, be it our phones, computers, kitchen knives, pens, or cameras. These tools themselves can be a treasured item to be coddled or handed down to the next or an object that inspires confidence to go out and use them; some of the greater designs out there can be a bit of both. In the end though, tools are just that: a means to create something meaningful in our lives and possibly others.

However, as a lot of folks on this site and other gearheads know, we like to make the tools that we use our own complete with fancy or functional straps, bags, gaffers tape, bling, or sharpies. When the day came to upgrade my Black M9-P, I was presented with the opportunity to score one of the first Silver M240s here in LA and as soon as it popped out of the box, I stripped the red paint off the dot for an instant pseudo M240-P look even before Leica slapped a giant 300 dollar screw on theirs maybe a year later. Since then it’s never really left my side in my daily life and travels and his been a great companion scarred with use. However classic, iconic and beautiful any Silver Leica looks, I couldn’t help but feel it did indeed get a bit more attention while walking around and it was about time for an experiment.

I was looking for a solution that was preferably non-permanent and even though I’ve spent many of hours around model shops and paint booths, I was a bit less familiar with Plasti Dip, a spray-on or paint-on rubberized substance that’s graced the surfaces of workshop tools and used by custom car enthusiasts alike. Known for it’s grippy and durable finish, it’s also completely removable on most finished surfaces leaving little to no residue if the coating is thick enough (~2+ m). My biggest concern was the resolution of pigment in the atomized spray as I didn’t want to gum up any of buttons or internals. I took to the internets to find any information on spraying this stuff on cameras, but came up short with only a few dudes using them on GoPros, repairing camera bellows, and coating circuit boards – at least I knew it wouldn’t affect any of the circuitry if it did happen to penetrate. After a successful test on a beater Nikkormat, it was time to get down on the M240!

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[DISCLAIMER: Use this information at your own risk. I or this site take no responsibility messing up your camera. I have somewhat decent modeling experience but even I was a pretty cautious and/or crazy throughout the process.]

Supplies: M240, Pocket rocket blower thing, Isopropyl 95% alcohol, microfiber cloth, Plasti Dip, carbide Xacto, a standard ¼”-20 screw, some painters/artist tape, some toothpicks, and some scrap wood to mount the parts on. Not in anyway sponsored by any of the above products – brand names are just for contextual use.

With some quick masking of the middle section and a once over with an alcohol wipe to make sure the body was entirely clean (super important), in a well ventilated area away from dust, it took about 3-5 coats at 6 inches with a set time of ~15mins between coats, per surface starting with the small delicate parts first (buttons, toggles, small radii, etc.) and then moving on to the coating the larger body panels. Luckily with the pretty tight tolerances between the buttons and switches on most cameras, Plasti Dip didn’t seem to give me too much of a problem, the spray is thick enough to cover most part-lines without going any deeper or gumming up things like the menu buttons, shutter speed. About 45 mins after the last coat I took my Xacto knife and carefully score around all the (sapphire) windows and used a sharp piece of plastic to score around the non-glass edges. Using the toothpicks, delicately peeled away from all the parts I wanted to leave uncoated. It’s important to score, release buttons, and peel off the rubber at this stage as it’s easier to get cleaner lines around these delicate parts.

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Left to finish curing for another 4 hours or so, I’m pretty stoked. The result is an almost fully murdered out soft-touch rubberized Leica M240 with an overall grippier feel, a bit more durable, and best of all completely reversible! It’s definitely a process but possibly a nice alternative to sharpies, gaffed up bodies, and DigitalRev style pinkentas!

Thanks for letting me share Steve! Shouts to the Todd Hatakeyama and the LA Photo Gang!
Cheers,
Darren Wong

Twitter & Instagram: @sticboy
[email protected]
sticboy.com | zeroninefive.com

Cheers,
Darren Wong

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Feb 022015
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What I Feel Leica Needs in 2015 and beyond…

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

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

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

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

I sold my M a month ago or so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve

Feb 022015
 

Leica M: Back to CCD? Well, if you want it..then who knows?

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While I personally love what Leica did with the M 240, and its sensor, and feel it is a huge step forward for the M series in every single way, even the sensor, there are still those who swear by the Leica M CCD sensor, such as the one in the M9 and M-E. While it is a crippled sensor in anything but base ISO compared to what can be done with the new CMOS sensor in the 240, there is a different look to it, a snap, that some miss with the M 240. Kind of like slide film vs print film with the M9 being the slide film :)

The M 240 sensor is more like the other sensors of today from Canon, Sony, etc while the old CCD M9 sensor is unique and in a class by itself as it offers a rendering unlike other cameras of today (at base ISO) which is why many miss the snap, crackle and pop they are getting with the M 240.

Peter from Photographs By Peter (Prosophos) has been trying to get a petition signed by as many CCD sensor fans as possible, and today he has over 400 of them. I have not posted to his petition in the past as I am one who does not want Leica to go back to CCD, not at all. I am one of the many who prefer the CMOS 240 sensor over the M9 sensor for color, for DR for higher ISO and for, well, everything. I prefer the IQ from the M 240 without question and I have spent three years with the M8, three with the M9 and 2+ with the 240, but we all have different tastes.

To those hardcore CCD lovers who prefer the difference of the CCD, check out Peter’s petition and if you want Leica to go back to CCD or create a new M with CCD in addition to a CMOS version, then go sign his petition! I have not signed it and will not but hey, I am just me and if more want CCD than not, who am I to stop the movement!

You can read what HE has to say and sign for his cause HERE. :) 

Jan 292015
 

How to use a Leica M Camera

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Check out this video from the wonderful Craig Semetko on using a Leica M Rangefinder Camera. He makes some great points and shares WHY it is a special thing, shooting with a rangefinder camera. I love my Sony A7II and S but the M is a totally different way of shooting. The video is less than 4 minutes and is well worth the watch, especially if you are not so sure how an RF works.

Craig Semetko: How to use a Leica M Camera from Leica Camera on Vimeo.

Jan 122015
 

The Panasonic LX7. A $349 Backup to my Leica M

by John Kurniawan

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Hi Steve and Brandon…Wish you both a Great 2015!

Bought a Panasonic LX7 as a back up to my M system.

I choose LX7 as a camera for my daughter as well a back up cam when I am traveling. Why LX7 ? Just love its size and features which suit my need like macro, zoom and manual mode. The manual mode comes handy when in low light condition so I can mimic the RF experience.

Almost a year with LX7, both my girl and me are happy with it, here are some the photo produce by this funtastic cam. Ones can produce good photo no matter what the camera is, most important is how ones capture lights correctly.

Thank you and hope to see more good post by talented photographer at your site

Best Rgds

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Jan 032015
 

Hi Brandon,

I have been a frequent reader of your father’s reviews on this website. and this would be my 1st submission, and hopefully 1st of many.

Over a year ago I gave up on DSLRs, and got myself a Fuji X100s when it was 1st introduced. that camera changed the way I take pictures, I am no longer cautious and concerned about being caught taking pictures in public (this is a grey area in my country, no specific rules, but many got into trouble shooting large dslr in public)

I quickly adopted street photography, loved how the Fuji was small, silent, and no one would take it seriously anyways. it made a lot of sense at that time.

However, I always wanted a Leica and last January I got my hands on my 1st ever Leica, I decided on a black M240 along with 50mm Summicron (V4 I believe), and that set was just perfect, small and discreet, slowly I even forgot about my trusty Fuji, and the Leica became my primary camera.

Attached are some photographs taken with the leica M along with the Summicron 50mm.

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Regards,

Fahad A

Saudi Arabia

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fahad85/

Dec 082014
 

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

by Cemal Sagnak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here one Bokehlicious shot from a brigde in Paris.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cemal Sagnak

https://cemalsagnak.wordpress.com

Oct 302014
 

Some Leica M 240 love..

by Per Bendiksen

I’ve been an on and off hobby photographer for some years now. Born and raised in Viking land, Norway. We have the nicest fjords and the most beautiful blondes in the world!

I’ve started analog, went digital, back to analog and now digital again. I’ve had many different system and brands, mostly Nikons – but where I am now feels like home.

Leica M typ240! Shooting rangefinder is somehow religious. Being able to shoot with a Leica is even better. OK, I sound crazy – but the last years of photography nothing has given me a better feeling similar to that first time framing, focusing and BAM the shutter speed. Love it!

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Mostly I like to put a person in my pictures, when no one around – landscape, street, buildings etc.

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Thanks for hosting this inspiring site!

Happy shooting folks!

more pictures @ perbendiksen.wordpress.com

Oct 282014
 

Quick 1st Look: Voigtlander 40/2.8 Aspherical Heliar for Sony E-Mount!

My Sony A7s with the brand new Artisan & Artist ACAM-310 Red Silk Strap

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Yesterday another new lens arrived via the wonderful mailwoman who delivers so much gear here she had to ask me what it is I do for a living :) The new Voigtlander 40mm F/2.8 Heliar Aspherical lens is a beauty, especially on the A7 series of cameras. It is small, collapsible, solid and made to a high standard. But this lens is unique as it is a Leica M mount lens (Voigtlander VM) but can not be used on a Leica M as there would be no way to focus it. Instead it is designed to be used with Sony E Mount using the Voigtlander VM to E close focus adapter. Yep, just mount this lens to the adapter and then on to your A7 or A6000 or any E mount camera, full frame or crop sensor, and you will have a gorgeous small lens that will deliver sharp yet beautiful results.

Image below is from cameraquest.com where I received the lens from… you can see the cap, hood, etc. 

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When I mounted it to my A7s it gave the camera a solid heft that I loved and in use it was very easy to focus. The color is rich, the sharpness is there without being analytical or overdone and while there is slight vignetting wide open at f/2.8, it adds to the character of the lens.

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The lens comes with a cap, a hood and is collapsible on the A7 series of cameras. When collapsed it makes for a very nice compact lens. Even when extended it is compact. After only testing this lens for a brief moment yesterday after it arrived I was very impressed with the handling, build and image quality. I only snapped three shots with it so far but will be getting out this week and weekend with the lens so a full review will be on the way soon..and damn, looks like yet another lens I will want to purchase. At $400 it is a very good buy and if you have the VM to E adapter already, a no brainer. NOTE: This lens is only designed to work with the Voigtlander close focus M to E adapter but I think any adapter that is similar (close focus) will work (HAWK). Still I recommend the Voigtlander 100% for adapting M lenses to E mount. 

So if you own this adapter, which IMO is the best adapter made for converting Leica M lenses to Sony E mount, then this gorgeous lens is a MUST BUY! It gives that old school feeling, look and the rendering is quite nice.

The lens is IN STOCK now at Cameraquest at the direct link HERE. 

My full review of this lens will be up in about 10-14 days!

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Oct 082014
 

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The Lomography Petzval Art Lens Review

You can buy the Petzval Art Lens at Cameraquest using the direct link HERE

You can also buy it at B&H Photo HERE

A long time ago in a land far far away there was a special and important portrait lens invented. The 1st usable portrait lens ever created, and it was designed by  Joseph Petzval in 1840. It was made of brass and it was very large, intended for cameras of the time. The unique look of the images from this lens was normal at the time, as it was the only useful portrait lens around. Even so it was a lens designed to cut down on exposure time from 30 minutes to mere seconds.

More on Joseph Petzval from Wikipedia:

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“Petzval’s greatest achievements lie in his work with geometric optics. In 1839, Louis Daguerre presented the Daguerreotype, the first commercially successful photographic process. Fox Talbot’s calotype was discovered earlier but did not enjoy commercial success. Petzval learned of the invention from his friend, Viennese professor Andreas von Ettingshausen. The daguerreotype was problematic in that it required exposure times as long as 30 minutes to create a portrait. With Ettingshausen’s urging, Petzval set up a workshop and laboratory at Kahlenberg in Vienna and, after six months of complex computations, produced designs for improved objective lenses for both portraiture and landscape photography. Because the artillery was one of the few occupations that used advanced mathematical computations at the time, Archduke Ludwig lent eight artillery cannoners and three corporals to the computational efforts. The calculations these men carried out in tandem with each other have been regarded as an early (albeit human) example of a parallel computer.

Petzval’s portrait objective lens (Petzval Porträtobjektiv) was an almost distortionless Anachromatischer vierlinser (double achromatic objective lens, with four lenses in three groups). The luminous intensity of this flat “portrait lens” was substantially higher than the daguerre standard of 1839, the Wollaston Chevalier lens (f/16). The screen f/3.6 with a focal length of 160 mm made crucially shorter exposure times possible — using exposures of only about 15 to 30 seconds compared to the 10 minutes previously. Thus, snapshots became possible for the first time.”

So Mr. Petzval is an important guy in history as he was responsible for creating the first usable portrait lens. Photos from that time all have a unique classic yet surreal look due to the photo process AND the lens being used.

Enter Today’s Re-Creation of the famous Petzval Lens

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As time went on of course lens design became more of an advanced art and therefore lenses became sharper, well corrected, and with more sharpness across the frame. Today most lenses are perfected for optimum performance as we can do things today that could not be done in 1840.

Personally, I would say that many of the expensive lenses made today are almost too corrected! Sure, there are many more uses for a perfect lens than a not so perfect one but sometimes I get bored with that “perfect” look as it is the same look everyone has in their images today. Many of us are constantly seeking perfection it seems when it comes to our cameras and lenses, so I say it is a good thing when we take a slight curve or u-turn into a surreal dreamy world ever now and again :)

When something unique comes along TODAY that goes against the normal then I am always interested to take a look, so this new Petzval lens made by Lomo attracted my attention from the get go. Over a year ago now in August of 2013 Lomography put up a kickstarter for an exciting new portrait lens. This lens was the NEW Petzval, recreated in a smaller for full frame Nikon and Canon mounts. While much smaller than the Petzval of the old days, this one retained the same shape, design and brass construction. It also kept the insane swirly bokeh, soft edges and classic out of this world fantasy land look. The new Petzval inspired lens was announced as an 85mm f/2.2 design and promised a classic look just like the old version put out.

As you can see, an original Petzval lens is on the left..the new version (which was a prototype) is on the right. Much more manageable in size :)

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As soon as I saw the Kickstarter I WANTED THIS LENS but for some reason my funds were low so I was going to wait to contribute enough to get one of the first lenses. Then, I forgot about it and before I knew it the Kickstarter raised 1.4 Million (they had a $100,000 goal). It was insane! Almost one and a half million was raised which really showed not only the power of Kickstarter but also showed there was a true demand for this amazing new recreation/re-imagining of the first classic portrait lens. So while the signature of the bokeh and rendering is not for everyone, plenty of backers contributed and gave money for this project so they would be assured of a lens for themselves.

 Even though this is an f/2.2 lens and not an f/0.95 design, the Bokeh effect is insane. Some will HATE it, some will LOVE it. Me, I adore it and feel it is a great “every now and then when the time is right” kind of lens. To be honest, the lens is so beautiful to see and hold, I wanted one just to have it on my shelf! Even if I use it only a few times each year it will be worth it just to have this tool in my arsenal. I shoot it on my Sony A7s which is IMO, the best camera available today for using all kinds of cool lens via adapters. Can’t beat a small full frame with intense low light capabilities.

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So yes, I wanted to try one…

A year or so went by and I forgot about the lens until a site sponsor, Cameraquest.com informed me that they were now a Lomo Art Lens dealer and they had the lens IN STOCK! $599 with free shipping.

I was asked if I wanted to review it so of course I could not pass it up. Soon, Stephen Gandy shipped me the lens and when it arrived I was literally blown away by the gorgeous packaging that went into the lens. A gorgeous quality box, a full book about the lens and the history of it with many sample photos, the aperture system and a few other things. For $599, to me, this seemed like a steal. When I pulled the shiny brass lens out of the bag it was in I was very impressed. The look, design, weight and quality was so nice down to the engraving of the name on the lens barrel.

The lens is made in Russia, and it looks and feels TOP NOTCH. The only issue I have found is that the lens cap, which is also brass, always falls off. It is not tight enough so I always find it at the bottom of my bag. Lomo may want to adjust this in future production runs.

Below is the video I made when the lens arrived. You can see the packaging and hear my very 1st thoughts on it:

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After I had the lens for 3-4 days I knew I wanted to commit and buy it. I contacted Stephen at Cameraquest and told him I was going to make the purchase. I also needed the adapter as I was using a Nikon mount version on a Sony A7s, so I needed a Nikon to Sony E-Mount adapter, which Stephen also sells and sent out to me for my testing and eventual purchase as well.

A lens I recently re-reviewed here on these pages was the Canon Dream lens. A lens I had bought not once, but twice in Leica M mount and when I bought my 2nd copy for $3100 I vowed to NEVER sell it… until I received an offer impossible to pass up for it via email. Then I did indeed sell it as I knew I would be a fool to pass up that offer. Even though I sold that lens for much more than I paid, I missed it as soon as it went out the door and started searching for something unique again..something that could give me a similar vibe..and when the Petzval arrived, THERE IT WAS! Just what I was looking for.

With this Petzval lens coming in at only $599 I can get a taste of that Canon dream lens..a bit of that flavor for MUCH MUCH less. While this lens is not the same as the Dream Lens I owned (IMO) I do feel it is a bit similar in rendering with a different signature at the edges and slightly in the Bokeh. I like the dream lens better but for the money, now that my 2nd dream lens was gone, buying the Petzval for my special effect lens was a no brainer.

Color or B&W..does not matter. What you will get is the same Petzval rendering and look. 

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Using the Petzval Lens…

As stated, my Petzval was purchased in Nikon mount which makes it easy to convert for use on the Sony A7s or Leica M 240. The lens is slightly long and manual focus only. The Aperture system is the old waterhouse system meaning there are aperture plates you put into the cameras aperture slit. Me, I use this lens at f/2.2 or f/2.8. By f/4 it sharpens up so much it almost renders like a normal lens, making the Petzval a Jeckyl and Hyde kind of lens. I feel the unique selling point of the lens is the swirly Bokeh effect and soft edges. So I basically always leave the f/2.2 aperture plate in. If you remove the plate you get a TEENY bit more speed according to Lomography and possible flare issues but when I tested this I saw no real difference in Bokeh or Exposure or flare. For those hoping to see more craziness without a plate, there really is none. Many would ask “Why use any plate at all”? Well, without an aperture plate inserted you are allowing dust to float down into the lens, and this is never a good thing :)

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The way you focus the lens is also unique. There is a dial on the left of the lens and this is what you rotate to focus. It is VERY simple and works well. In fact, I wish more lenses worked like this! It seems much more precise. It was so easy to focus on the Sony A7s with the nice big clear EVF that I never had a focus issue. It’s brilliant!

More in COLOR – All wide open at f/2.2

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On the Sony A7s I just plopped on the Nikon to E Mount adapter and then the lens. That was it, ready to rock and swirly roll. Using the lens was a piece of cake. I feel an EVF based mirrorless makes it easier to use this lens because with a Nikon DSLR you are looking through an optical viewfinder and it makes it very very hard to nail focus using the Petzval. I prefer the what you see is what you get type of thing.

It’s NOT an Everyday Lens!

If you are looking for ONE lens and one lens only, this would not be it. While fun, interesting and unique, the look can be overdone so I would reserve it for certain situations or scenarios. I have seen GORGEOUS portraits with this lens and I have seen AWFUL portraits and mis-use of this lens. Using it takes some practice as not everything will look good with it. Some subjects may look really awful using this lens and it probably takes a month or two to really get to know it inside and out. Me, I have been shooting with it for only two weeks so I still have some learning to do before I create my own Petzval “Masterpiece”.

I bought the lens for those few times a year I get the itch for an “artistic” lens. Lenses like the Noctilux, the Canon Dream Lens, Canon 85L and this lens are what I call “Art Lenses” because they create images that can sometimes appear as paintings. They specialize in the surreal and I LOVE these kind of lenses.

Take a look at a few more samples using this very crazy lens – click them for larger versions that look better, especially if you are using a large display (I use a 27″)

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What to expect from the Petzval

If you buy this lens one thing to keep in mind is that when shot wide open you will get images just like you see here. Swirly Bokeh, soft edges and corners, sharp in the dead center of the frame and lower contrast (which is easily fixing in post). All of these ingredients add up to create the signature look of this lens. I can already make a prediction: Many comments here will say “The Bokeh makes me dizzy or sick”, “Those shots are awful”, “I could never use this lens”…then others will say “Wow, that is a cool lens” or “I own one and love it” or “I want one”!

People are usually split on these kinds of swirly lenses. This is one thing that makes the world so great and interesting, no two individuals are alike :) 

Many classic lenses render in a similar way though not so extreme. When shooting this lens remember it is manual focus, manual aperture and will work perfect with the camera set to aperture priority mode. Focusing via a nice EVF is, for me, a breeze. Also, this lens was made for full frame sensors and to get the most out of it this is how I would recommend using it. When taking a full frame lens and using an APS-C or smaller sensor you lose part of the lens signature which is why I never use Leica M glass in Micro 4/3. This lens would be fantastic on the A7s (all images here with the Sony) or even the Leica M 240. All you need is the adapter for each and you are in business. Of course, you can also use it on any Nikon DSLR or if you buy the Canon mount, any Canon DLSR.

This lens is indeed an “Art” lens and I would love to see a 35 or 50mm made just like it as sometimes I find this focal length of 85mm a little long. Lomo should create wider versions with the same design..a trio if you will.

Man I just love the swirl in this shot. Surreal, dreamy, with just the right amount of softness for the portrait. I shot this to show the background rendering of foliage as well as the swirl.

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When shooting this lens expect the Bokeh performance of a faster lens. For some reason it blows out the background like an f/1 lens. It’s crazy but for me, it is beautiful (on most occasions).

My Bottom Line Conclusion on the Petzval Lens

When this lens was announced I WANTED ONE in a bad way. Then I was busy and forgot about it. When it was finally released and I saw samples, the early samples, I was not so impressed. As time went on I studied some of the amazing samples available online and knew I would eventually own one. When Stephen Gandy offered the lens up for review I could not pass it up. I would be able to test it and if I liked it, I could purchase it. Once I saw the attention to detail in the packaging and design as well as the build of the lens and accessories, I was hooked. After shooting off 10 frames or so I was sold.

The lens is not an everyday lens but it is one that will be used from time to time when I want that special dreamy effect. Much like the Canon Dream Lens I recently re-visited, this lens has some craziness to the rendering, but I am a crazy guy so I love it. But…I would tire of it if I used it daily, really quick.

Depending on the background of your subject you could end up with a nasty busy mess or a beautiful ethereal image that looks like a painting. It takes reality and distorts it a little, giving us a taste of what it is like to be an artist. Those photographers with the eye and vision for the unique will get it. Others will not. 100% personal preference. But it does take practice to determine the best distance from subject to lens and subject to background. Get these just right and the images deliver the look you want. It’s a hell of a lens! While shooting it in Las Vegas I had so many ask me about the lens. When eating a waitress saw it and had to ask all about it telling me she wanted one for her son. It will get attention, but it was all good attention. People were genuinely curious about it due to the design and looks.

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I am happy I decided to make the purchase as it can be used on my Sony A7s or on a Leica M-P. It also sharpens up more at f/2.8 and by f/4 will give you pretty nice consistent results without the swirl. Using the old-fashioned aperture system is quite nice actually. I haven’t lost one yet and I love the process of pulling one out and using the next, though I admit, I feel this lens is made for wide open use so I RARELY change it.

If this type of image rendering suits you, I highly recommend this lens. I feel in 10 years it will be desirable and one day even collectible if they stop production of it. Look at the Canon Dream lens. A few years ago you could buy one for $900, now expect to pay $4500-$5000 and up for a clean M mount version. (what I sold my last one for).

At $599, it is priced more than right IMO. You get a great experience from opening of the box, to holding the lens, to using it. There is only ONE complaint from me and that is the lens cap. It always falls off, so I usually leave mine off unless it is sitting on the shelf. Other than that it is just what I expected and I am really surprised that this lens was not priced a little higher due to the superb packaging, build quality, brass design and novelty of it.

Thanks Lomography!

You can buy this lens from Stephen Gandy at the link HERE. He ships FAST and is a great guy to deal with.

You can buy the Nikon to E-Mount adapter from him as well, using the direct link HERE.

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