Sep 182014
 

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Re-Visiting the Canon Dream Lens, 50 f/0.95

When we choose and buy our cameras some of us fail to realize that the heart of our camera is not our sensor or the camera body itself, it is the lens. The lens is what makes the camera “see”..it is what delivers the image to the sensor..it is the eyeball of your camera. The better the lens, the sharper your image, the more correct and richer the color saturation and you will also have the least amount of distortions. Choosing the right lens for your camera is the same thing as a painter choosing the right brush for whatever job they are doing.

For example, if I want a nice portrait lens when I am shooting a Leica M, it is hard to go wrong with a 90 Summicron APO. if I want wide angle, there is the Voigtlander 15 or Leica WATE. When I want subject isolation , a 50mm Summilux or Noctiliux fits the bill. Each lens delivers a different look, this is a fact. Some lenses are soft, have distortions and issues, yet they can still create a nice image. Some lenses create sloppy or horrible bokeh and others will give you creamy bokeh that just melts. Again, choose the lens for what you are trying to achieve.

Lenses ARE the heart of your camera system yet so many of us skimp on the lens. I wonder why? Why am I babbling on about this? Well, it is a longish story but one that I am happy to tell because the lens I am talking about today is a special one, and even a controversial one at times, but it is a beautiful lens to me regardless. One of those lenses you pull out when you want THAT look that only it can give.

Over a year ago, in June of 2013, I wrote a review on a unique lens that had gained a cult following of sorts. A lens that was known for having a crazy “dream like” rendering when shot wide open at its uber fast aperture of f/0.95. Up there with lenses like the original Noctilux or the Canon 85 1.2L. The Canon was a lens that I never saw in the flesh but was wowed by in photos (sometimes) that were taken by others using the lens. It was a quality that I never saw in ANY other lens, cheap to crazy exotic. While a lens like the Leica Noctilux is technically superior to this “Dream Lens”, it can not do what this lens does and vice versa.

The Canon 50 0.95 “Dream Lens” was originally made for the Canon 7 Rangefinder film system of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The 50 f/0.95 was the super fast aperture solution when shooting the Canon 7, and when you look on E-Bay or classifieds for this lens today you will mainly see it in the Canon 7 Rangefinder mount which is unusable for Leica M shooters unless it is modified for M mount use.

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There have been a few of these 50 0.95’s sent in for a Leica M conversion and some have been done horribly bad, some have been done pretty nicely, and some have been done superbly, as in, they could not have done it better. Some have even added a 6 bit code to the lens so the digital Leica M will recognize it as a Noctilux and apply corrections. Pretty slick.

To those who own this lens in M mount, they usually adore it and most say they would never sell it. Because of this,  you do not see too many out there in great shape with a proper M mount conversion because if you do sell your mint M mount copy, chances are it will be very hard to find another just as good, ever. I should know, that is exactly what happened to me. After writing my review over a year ago I had a flood of e-mails offering me crazy money to buy my lens. I loved it and did not want to sell but I usually love money more than gear and get it when I can (money), especially if it ended up where I actually made a few bucks. So I sold my last version over a year ago which was an 8/9 out of 10 for condition, focus and IQ. It was so so good!

Of course, after I sold the lens I missed it within 2 days, even with $3500 in my bank account from the sale. I regretted that sale more than almost any other sale I have made in my photographic life. WHY? Not because this lens was such a technological marvel, or super sharp or up there with the likes of the Noctilux. Nope. I missed it because when I was shooting a 50 Lux the day after I realized I would never again have that special look that this lens gave me. In reality, this lens is a special effects lens when shot wide open and when shot from f/2 on it is like a normal fast lens but very sharp and with a very creamy draw. But it is the wide open use is what gave this jewel its nickname of Dream Lens. It renders the background into a dream like blur. A watercolor effect almost. It is pretty amazing IMO. As I said, nothing like it out there and to be able to use it on a Leica M or Sony A7, in full frame, as it was meant to be shot but with modern ISO capabilities..wow. Take a look at the Flickr page for the Dream Lens, which has been up for years and funny enough, was started by Ashwin Rao! LOADS of samples there that will show you what this lens does.

So yea, I missed it after I sold it. Damn! Even though my last copy sold for $3500, and I had a few who wanted it at that price, and even one offer at $4000 that came after I sold it, I still regretted the sale.

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So I started my search for another MINT copy

Since the last sale I kept an eye on e-bay and some classified sites searching for the perfect copy of this lens. I was picky. I was waiting patiently for the “one”, hopefully a 9/9.5 out of 10 and I wanted a hood, cap and 6-Bit coding. I was ready to pay up to $3k for one and did see some on E-bay from China that were selling for $2800-$3000 but was hard to trust those sellers as you never know just how the lens will be. Will the focus be spot on for the RF? Will it be clean without scratches or haze or fungus? It was a chance and shipping from China to the USA was a little risky, though it could have and most likely would have worked out fine. Still, I waited until I came across one that was either local or close to it.

Then I found one…

Then, as I was ready to lose patience and jump to buy a “92 out of 100″ rated dream lens on e-bay from a vendor in China I saw a a Facebook notification, as it was a sign.. it was a a post with images of a MINT M Mount Canon 50 0.95 with 6 bit coding. Hmmm. I even knew the guy, Jeff Warren, as he was at my last workshop in Nevada! He even lived in Los Angeles, a 5-6 hour drive from me. Jeff hinted that he MAY be selling in that Facebook post so I messaged him and we chatted, I thought for a bit and I bought it. He even sent it Fed Ex overnight, the same day, for no extra charge. I received the lens in less than 24 hours from the moment that I sent him the money via Paypal, 19 hours to be exact.

My main concern was that it would be off with the Rangefinder of the Leica because at 0.95 there is a VERY thin DOF. Any misfocus would be a nightmare as I have experienced first hand with a few fast lenses over the years.

Luckily it arrived and it looked amazing, a solid 9/10. The glass was/is perfect. No issues. I mounted it to the MM (no need for an adapter as this is M mount with 6 Bit) and fired away some shots. Perfecto! I mounted it to the A7s with a Voigtlander M to E adapter and even more WOW. Was so awesome shooting it on the A7s. Easy to focus with the large EVF and it felt really good on the A7s body. NOW THIS is a low light combo to dream for.

ULTRA THIN DOF at 0.95 – Sony A7s.  Some vignetting when used on the A7s at 0.95, that is the only issue. Look how TINY the in focus area is on the block wall. The rest is not lens softness, it is BOKEH, all out of focus due to the extremely small depth of field. 

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Regrets?

So after a couple of hours being happy as a newborn baby with a mouthful of milk I asked myself…”so, do you regret buying this for so much money“? My answer to myself was NO!! I was HAPPY, I was THRILLED, I was ECSTATIC. I told myself that I would not sell this one. But I have been here before, with many lenses that I swore I would never sell. None of them have tugged at me like this one though. Sure, I have owned them all – the Noctilux f/1 and 0.95, the SLR Magic 50 T 0.95 Hyperprime, the Mitakon Speedmaster and of course the Summicrons and Summilux lenses, which are all gorgeous and technically amazing. But this lens just does something special and while it is not an every day lens, it could be if you stopped it down to f/2 or f/2.8.

I am going to start using this lens with the A7s, MM and M in various locations and clubs shooting local live bands, which on many occasions shoot in near darkness to small crowds, ver small crowds. This is a lens that will do great things in these scenarios I think. I am also going to bring it out for certain portrait sessions, to add that extra flair and uniqueness that you do not see in many photos these days. I am not talking about just doing the whole shallow DOF Bokeh thing, but using it artistically and effectively.

I missed focus on this one with the A7s somehow, but I still like it :) A B&W filter was applied in processing.

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The fact is that this lens brings us a “draw” that no other lens does. Period. This lens is also pretty rare set up in an M mount with 6 Bit coding. It is even rarer to find this in a 9/10 condition. I am vowing to hang on to this lens!! Hehehe. We will see.

When I wrote about this lens in my 1st review I mainly used it with the M 240, which also rocks with this lens. Since I did that review with the M, I wanted to focus on using it with the A7s and Monochrom this time around, so this is what this article will be about.

The Canon 50 0.95 on the Sony A7s. I also have my JB grip on the camera as well as a ARTISAN OBSCURA sticky soft release.

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First up, the Sony A7s and the 50 0.95

With the new Sony A7 series, particularly the A7s (my fave of the three) this lens takes on a whole new world of possibilities. For one, this classic fast lens can now be used on a full frame mirrorless camera with integrated EVF and up to insane ISO’s. Much like the Mitakon I reviewed a while back, this lens will make the A7s a true king of the night. At f0.95 and ISO capability up to 100k usable, there will be no light that you can not shoot in, period. Add to that the moody possibilities and artistic weirdness that the Dream Lens puts out and you can create images that not many others can even get close to in style and flash. Of course, you have to know your stuff..know what you are doing, otherwise the images will look bad, even VERY bad.

But use your skill to its fullest and you can create some interesting images that are worthy of framing. Images that people will see and say “wow, how did you do that”.

When this lens is on the A7s using the Voigtlander close focus adapter you can focus in VERY close. MUCH closer than you can when using it on the M or MM. This is invaluable and will even make the dream lens MORE dreamy. It is true, when this lens was given the name “Dream Lens” it was for a reason. Just take a look at my original review to see some dreaminess with the M 240.

When I used this lens with my well used A7s, I think it was the best ever match for this lens, and the good news for A7 shooters is that you do not need to find the rare M mount version to use this on the A7. you can now buy a standard Canon 7 version of this lens, of which they are plentiful on e-bay, and use a canon 50 0.95 to E mount adapter. This can save you about $1,000 when buying the lens if you only want to use it on a Sony A7 body.

After realizing this, I started to really realize how special the Sony A7 series is. I mean, I knew it was already but there is no other full frame system out there that can do what the A7 series does, especially the A7s. This is the 1st ever camera, full frame, that will allow you to use this Dream Lens and even use it with close focusing, AND nail focus due to the critical focus you can achieve with the EVF and magnification.

I love this on my MM and M but for the ultimate Dream Lens experience I think it should be shot on an A7s. End of story. After using it with the A7s I wanted to carve my name in the side to assure I never am tempted to sell it for some quick cash. :) I did not do this of course but I have to say, I love this lens. Below are some images with it on the Sony A7s.

All images below are from the Sony A7s and Canon 50 0.95, WIDE OPEN. You must click on the images  to see them larger and in the correct way. If you do not, you will not see  them the way they were meant to be seen.

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As you can see this lens can perform well on the Sony A7s, in daylight or in darkness. In fact, I prefer it to the original Leica Noctilux f/1. It is sharper at the focus point and has a nicer draw for my tastes. It is also easier to hold and balance on the camera. The more I use this lens on the A7s and Leica cameras, the more I realize just how special of a lens it is. At the average cost of $3-$3500, it is a great lens to add to your collection if the look and capabilities it can offer are to your liking.

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On the Leica MM this lens is a wonderful match as is any classic lens. I feel the Mono is at its best with classic glass over modern analytical glass and this Dream lens helps to round it all out. The IQ is stunning and while not like a Noctilux 0.95 in perfection it has its own Mojo going on that can not be denied.

Before I keep on going on about my love for this lens, I will say that not everyone will like this lens. Some will HATE it. Many like what I call “The Summicron Look”, which is clean, crisp, sharp and even. Many who love that look HATE the look of the Canon Dream Lens. They will say the Bokeh is awful and busy and the lens is soft (it is not soft though). So before you even think about this lens,make sure you LOVE what it does because if you do not then you will tire of it.

With that out of the way, using it on the MM is quite lovely. You lose the closer focusing of the A7s but you are shooting in pure B&W and this lens loves B&W. It has a nice micro contrast  that is gentle and allows your subject to pop while the edges and background just melt away into a fantasy land. Wide open it is quite crazy. Stopped down it is nice and smooth.

The main issue with users of the Leica M or MM is you want to make sure the M mount Dream Lens you find/buy is good with your cameras RF. Many old lenses are off, and if your lens or your camera is off just a hair, the lens will be a challenge to focus. If possible, test the lens before buying, which in 99% of cases is impossible I know.

The B&W from the MM and this lens is richer than the A7s with B&W. It’s a whole different style of shooting as well, much different. RF shooting is something that will be rewarding when you get out there and get those shots using manual focus and manual controls.

Below are a few shots with this lens on the Monochrom.

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Getting the most from the Dream Lens requires a few things..

If you choose to buy or use this lens or even if you have one and are thinking, “My shots do not look that good, mine are low in contrast and softer and do not pop like these”, then read on as I will tell you how to get this look from this lens. The Canon 50 0.95 lens is a lens with lower contrast than most modern lenses so when you process the photos you must do a couple of things to bring out the goodness in the files :)

First, PLEASE shoot RAW. This is not an OOC JPEG type of lens. For you to get the best from it you need to bump the contrast and add some sharpening as well. I shoot RAW and when processing the RAW file I bump the contrast slider up until it looks good without going overboard. I also mess with the shadow slider to bring out shadows that were covered by the contrast slider. I may also tweak the highlight slider if needed. Add some sharpening and convert that file to a JPEG. That is all you have to do, but when you do it take s an OK image and makes it into one that will be much nicer looking. To those who complain about this lens saying it is soft, low contrast, or has issues..well, you either have a bad copy or are not using it correctly. I recently saw a comment on a popular forum that was a reply to someone asking about this lens..the reply? ” that lens sucks. A coke bottle would give you better images at f/0.95. It was mostly a bragging rights lens by Canon that was made especially for the bling-bling gold Rolex watch, silicon boobs, Lamborghini owners. My thing is bigger than your thing kind of thing……..” 

It is safe to say that this person had no clue as to what they were talking about. :) The lens is beautiful and sharp even wide open. In fact, I find it sharper wide open than the original Leica Noctilux F/1.

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My Original video on the Canon Dream Lens

I did a video over a year ago on this lens with my thoughts on it back then. If you missed it, take a look below:

Final Word on the Dream Lens

I will tell you what I told you over a year ago HERE in my original review…

If you lust after this lens, BUY ONE if you can find one in great shape. Prices have went up and will continue to go up. Mark my words. In two to three years this lens will be hovering around $5k for an M mount, mint, with cap and hood, 6 Bit coded, maybe more than that in 3-5 years. It offers just as much fun as the Noctilux 0.95 with more uniqueness for 1/3 the cost, 2/3 the size and 1/2 the weight. For me it even beats the old Noctilux f/1, which Leica created due to this very lens.

If you shoot a Sony A7 series camera it is so good on these bodies, a truly drool and lust worthy piece. If you shoot an M you can use live view for critical focus and on the MM it is a beauty. But do not expect perfection, not at all. This lens is not about being perfect. It has some vignetting, it can be soft looking if you mis focus and  the contrast can be slightly low if you do not tweak it. What makes this lens so sought after is the Bokeh, which is unlike any other lens ever made. You can really make some images that are very painterly with this guy.

At the current price of around $3200 for a mint M mount copy they will not be heading down or getting cheaper. If you like the look of the images here, in my original review, or on the Flickr group then this  is the only lens that will give it to you. Happy Hunting and if you own this lens, leave a comment letting us know how you like it, how you shoot it and what you shoot it on! Thanks everyone!

Steve

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Aug 292014
 

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A night with the Monochrom at ISO 10,000

So yesterday you saw where I wrote about the new Leica M-P and the silver Monochrom. Last night Debby and I decided to take a drive down to a cool hangout here in Phoenix called “The Lost Leaf’. We have been there a few times now and it always offers a great atmosphere, a huge selection of beers and drinks and every single night, live music. The last time I was there I brought along the Sony A7s and tested it in the torturous low light conditions of the Lost Leaf, which at times borders on near darkness. The A7s did well, even when pushed to over 80,000 ISO and seeing that I was going that high in ISO with the A7s, I did not think the Monochrom would be able to handle it, especially with the 50 f/2 lens I had on the camera. But I gave it a shot. I cranked the Monochrom to ISO 10,000, which is the max ISO for this camera, and I snapped a few frames.

Before heading in I set the MM to ISO 6400 and snapped a shot of this mural on the wall across the street. Click on it to see  the tones, graduations and sharpness. It was shot at 50mm and f/2, wide open.

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At ISO 10,000 the Monochrom puts out files that look like Tri-X 400 film.  All images below were shot at ISO 10,000

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People hanging out on the patio waiting for the nights musical act, Copper & Congress. 

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As the band started to play I took a test shot from my table to test the lighting and to see if ISO 10k and f/2 was enough. I managed to get 1/60th second.

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I feel the Monochrom puts out convincing B&W that does remind me of my M6 ad M7 film days..

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I moved in closer to get some shots of the band..

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By far my fave shot of the night, and this one is a JPEG from camera. ISO 10,000, f/2 – click it for much better viewing experience.

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The Sony A7s was also with me…

I also brought the Sony A7s with me along with the 35 2.8 and 55 1.8 Zeiss. It focused so accurate and fast for me using auto focus, even in these dim conditions..it was amazing. With that said, I had to crank the ISO higher on the Sony as I was using an f/2.8 lens so I used ISO 16,000 and 32,000. Only problem was I had the camera (by accident) set to JPEG only, and was shooting in the gimmicky “high contrast B&W mode” which killed the tonality of the image. None of them looked good, but it was my mistake for using the HC B&W option. Here is one example below of what that setting will do when used at high ISO and low light:

The next two shots were taken with the Sony A7s at ISO 16,000 and 32,000 using the 55 1.8 and 35 2.8. Problem is I had the camera set to JPEG only and used the High Contrast B&W mode which destroyed the tones. Lesson learned.

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As you can see, using high contrast B&W on the A7s destroyed the details, the tones and the overall look of the image (IMO). From now on, no more gimmick modes for me! If it were set to standard B&W it would have looked great. I can also see the NR at work from the camera even though it was set to low. Still, the A7s performed like a beast. Fast AF, quick and easy shooting, no issues. If I had it set to RAW and JPEG I could have saved my photos so user error on that one.

At the end of the day though I soooo loved shooting the Monochrom last night. It has been a while since I shot anything like this with a Leica and with the insanely low light here (It’s literally lit up by one red light bulb) I did not think the Leica would cut it, especially with a 50 f/2. While the Noct would have been amazing here, the little Zeiss 50 Planar f/2 did well. For me the Mono images have a teeny something about them that is beautiful and now I know that I can go up to ISO 10k in the dark without issue. It’s all about the exposure and if you nail it then you will have minimal noise.

I will be back to the Lost Leaf soon I am sure because it is great fun to see and shoot these live acts in such a cool inmate environment.

You can check out the Lost Leaf here and if you are ever in Phoenix I highly recommend stopping in. You can check out Copper & Congress at their website HERE. 

Aug 282014
 

VIDEO: The Leica M-P and Silver Monochrom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below is my video featuring both cameras. Enjoy!

Aug 192014
 

Dogstreets: Mans best friend 

By Brigitte Hauser

Dear Brandon, Steve and Readers

The daily inspiration from all over the world makes me happy and smiling almost every day. Thanks a lot.

I am an amateur photographer and I like street photography. Since our old dog Murphy has died in the beginning of 2014 I see a lot more dogs in the streets than before!

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So I started my dogstreets project.

Taken in Nice (France), with Sony rx 1.

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Near Portofino (Italy) also with Sony rx 1.

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Taken in Zurich, Switzerland with Nikon Df and Leica Monochrom.

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The last pic shows Pablo our new dog by LMono, it is a “street dog” from Spain.

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As you see I use three cams. (I would prefer only one with only one lens) The one I use most is Sony rx1 because of its size. Focusing is sometimes e bit slow. I adore the LMono. But with Leica I need two hands free for focusing. And with a young dog at the doglead – very very difficult:-) That’s why I also use the Df although it’s a bit bulky for streets especially with Nikkor 58, 1,4. But super lens.

Enjoy the pics.

Yours
Brigitte

Jul 132014
 

The best for me: Leica Monochrom!

by Francois Roosens

I think it’s the moment to send you some pictures from my Leica MM (Monochrom). Leica came into my life about 2 years ago, I sold my D4, D800e and all reflex kit to buy it.

The Leica MM is for me the best camera I have bought. I now own the MM(The best), M240,  A7r,  A7s (fabulous), and also the Lumix GM1 (it’s a perfect micro camera). I like your job.. Thanks for everything.

I am sending you some picture of « GILLES » from Belgium, it was in March for the « Carnaval » It was an important feast in my country. Early in the morning Gilles come pick  up other gilles and drink and eat at each house. in front of every house, they dance around… and lunch some oranges to give at children or at people for have a lucky year. I hope you like this.  The Leica 24 Summilux and 50 Noctilux 0.95 was used for that and I was up at 4AM.

Thank you!

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May 242014
 

New Leica Silver Monochrom, 28 Summilux SE and 90 Macro set!

Most of you gave probably seen all of this already but Leica introduced a couple of new items this past week, which some of you may be happy about and some of you may not as they all cost a pretty penny. First up is my fave, the silver chrome Monochrom camera. Up until now the Monochrom was only offered in a matte black finish, which I feel is beautiful. When Leica released the special Ralph Gibson edition of the Monochrom I was in awe of the beauty of the camera in chrome as it closely resembled an MP ousted of an M. I secretly wished that Leica would release the standard Monochrom in silver chrome and they just did. Coming it at the same $7995 as the standard, the chrome should start shipping anytime now. I may even have one to check out and if so I will do a new video on the Monochrom and my thoughts on the camera today. Sure it is damn expensive for a B&W camera but Leica has been VERY successful with this model and one thing rings true..all who own this camera adore it and say it is their favorite camera ever. I have many friends who own it and will never get rid of it. I know of a couple who have bought TWO so in case one dies of gets damaged or lost they have another. Crazy huh? There is something to be said for an all B&W camera that is optimized for B&W. Especially when it is in the form of a Leica rangefinder.

There has been rumors and evidence of a new version of the Monochrom coming for Photokina, the M type 230. Could this be a new Monochrom in an M 240 body? Possibly. Also, the M Monochrom silver chrome edition below is said to be a limited run. 

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You can pre-order the silver chrome MM at B&H Photo HERE. Ken Hansen also is taking pre-orders as is PopFlash and The Pro Shop

Leica also announced a new 90macro adapter that is best used with the 90mm f/4 lens they sell. Gone will be the old Macro kit and in its place the new macro adapter. Will start to ship in June.  This will allow macro photography with the M, which is pretty damn cool considering this was never really possible (in any easy way). 

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Finally, Leica introduced an all new limited edition kit, metal suitcase and all! A combo of the new M-A film camera (which is basically based off of the MP), a special edition Monochrom and the new 28 f/1.4 Summilux, ALL MADE FROM STAINLESS STEEL. Yes, a 28 summilux! The new lens is not released on its own yet but it will be within a few months (My prediction)  – For now, the only way to get it is in this limited edition kit, of which only 101 have been made. This will set you back around $30,000 USA. INSANE! Stainless steel must be pricey these days :)

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Starting Price: € 22.000 (or $30,000 US)

This year, Leica Camera AG is celebrating 100 years of Leica photography. On the occasion of this special anniversary, a uniquely special highlight will be presented in the course of the official opening celebration for the new Leica headquarters in the Leitz Park complex in WETZLAR on MAY 23, 2014: the Leica M Edition 100. The first set will be auctioned at the WESTLICHT SPECIAL AUCTION “100 YEARS OF LEICA” on May 23rd in Wetzlar.

As the first Leica special edition of its kind, the Leica M Edition 100 brings together a purely mechanical rangefinder camera for film photography – the LEICA M-A – with a digital Leica M (LEICA M MONOCHROM) in one set. The combination of these two cameras is unique. Its symbolic character as an homage to the beginnings of Leica 35 mm photography and, in particular, to black-and-white photography makes the centennial edition truly special. This applies, above all, to its high-quality construction and finish: for the first time ever, both Leica cameras and the lenses in this set are made from solid stainless steel.

Both cameras stand as symbols for the origins of Leica photography and the present day. The Leica M-A, with technical specifications based on the currently available Leica MP film camera, is a direct descendent of the Ur-Leica. Alternatively, the second camera, a Leica M Monochrom, is the contemporary variation of the theme composed a century ago by Oskar Barnack.

The set also includes THREE SUMMILUX-M LENSES with focal lengths of 28, 35 and 50 mm. Renowned for their combination of extremely compact size, speed and exceptional imaging quality, they ideally reflect the characteristic performance criteria with which Leica lenses contributed to the establishment of the brand as a legend.

The M centennial set will be supplied in a black anodized aluminium case constructed by Rimowa especially for Leica. Inside, the case is subdivided into compartments precisely tailored to the individual components of the set and lined with real leather in black.
The set also includes Kodak TRI-X 400 black-and-white film for use with the Leica M-A.

SPECIAL ENGRAVING on the top plate of the body commemorates the centennial, as do the unique serial numbers that end with the four digits of the years between 1914 and 2014.

The Leica M Edition 100 is strictly LIMITED TO 101 SETS for the entire global market. The cameras and lenses will be available exclusively as sets from Leica Stores and Boutiques from June 2014; none of the items contained in the sets will be available as separate items (For example, there will never be a stainless steel 28 Lux made available for sale separately, but there will be a black 28 Lux sold separately – I imagine the same will go for the M-A as I bet they will release it to replace the MP in black or chrome eventually) 

 

Mar 052014
 

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In praise of the Leica Monochrom

by Colin Templeton

Hi Steve,

I’ve been a regular visitor to your site over the years, and thought it was time I contributed something, rather than continue to sit on the sidelines.

I work for a national newspaper in Scotland. I love my job – I’m based in Glasgow, as is my newspaper, so much of my work is in and around the city, although I also get to see a fair bit of Scotland.

But the city is what fascinates me. And when I’m not working I get out and about with my Leica M Monochrom. I love to document everyday life on the streets. I’ve owned, and used, a Leica M6 since the mid-nineties, and always liked the images it produced. They seemed to have more life to them, dare I say it, more soul than the pictures I got from the Nikon F5 I used for work, and the rangefinder camera was simply much more fun to use.

When I started at the newspaper full-time, around five years ago, they supplied the camera gear needed for the job, so I was left with all the Nikon kit I had used as a freelance. I sold it all (thank you, eBay) and bought a Leica M9. That camera was a revelation – essentially the same as the M6, but with the advantages of being digital. And when it was announced that Leica were launching a black and white only M, I didn’t hesitate – I traded in the M9, and found myself with an M Monochrom. I’d been converting the majority of my shots into black and white anyway.

Eighteen months later, I’m still smitten by this camera. Picking it up make me want to go out and shoot with it. And I do, pretty much every day (I post a daily photograph on Blipfoto: http://www.blipfoto.com/contraflow). A lot of praise has been heaped on the M Monochrom, and I find myself much in agreement. The camera is very small, light, unobtrusive, a joy to shoot with, and the files it produces are like nothing I’ve seen before. You can step on them hard and they just don’t break up. Not that you need to be hard on them, because if exposed correctly, they need hardly any work. Everything is in the file – it just needs to be breathed on a little to coax the best from it.

One of the best things about the M Monochrom is that you get to use Leica lenses on it. I’m an ex-Nikon user, and now a full-time Canon user, so I know all about the image quality of those two systems. But the tiny Leica lenses have detail and character in spades, by comparison. It almost seems ludicrous how heavy and large a pro Canon DSLR is, when the diminutive Leica has the same size sensor, and much smaller, faster, sharper lenses. Any DSLR I’ve ever used feels like the computer it is. I can’t bond with it. And when I see the results, they fulfil the brief, but it almost feels as though the camera made the picture, not me. That’s a good thing, because it makes the job easier. But there’s no fun involved. Using a Leica rangefinder is fun. You have to really slow down and think. Just take a single shot and make it count. When I get a picture from a Leica M that I’m happy with, I really feel as though I made the image, not the camera.

My two favourite lenses for the M Monochrom are the 50mm M Summilux ASPH, and the 28mm Summicron ASPH. Occasionally I’ll use an old 1960’s 90mm Tele Elmarit “fat” version 1, but generally it’s just the two lenses for me. And mostly it’s the 50mm. A lot has been made about the modern aspherical lenses being too sharp, too clinical in their rendering for the M Monochrom sensor, but I just don’t see it. I think the modern 50mm and 28mm render beautifully, and with plenty of character. But maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, I could go on and on. I adore the M Monochrom. It doesn’t get in my way, it just allows me to take great pictures. It’s like my M6, loaded with an endless supply of all my favourite black and white films.

My website is: http://colintempleton.com/

I’m also a member of the Elephant Gun photography collective: http://www.750grain.com/colintempleton/

And I’m on Twitter: https://twitter.com/colintempleton

Very best wishes, and thank you,

Colin

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Mar 032014
 

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Looking into the souls, thinking in (Leica) monochrom

By Marco Wolf – His Website is HERE

My name is Marco Wolff from Hamburg. This is my first article I write about my thoughts as a photographer, my ideas and gear I use.

More than 3 years ago I deeply stepped into digital photography, took online trainings and made a lot of photo sessions. These sessions follow 2 streams, the first is about portraits – going next to people, talking to people and focusing on what they are and what they think. The second stream is about dancing – Flurina (first picture above) was the first dancer I took pictures of and right at this moment I was addicted to the passion of the dancers expressions and their life.

During this time I used several cameras and lenses like olympus, nikon, Leica etc. to find for me the most suitable one. Hopefully, now… I have found it. In this article I like to tell you a little bit about my way I used Leica and my experiences with the Leica monochrom.

2 Years with my Leica M9

I bought my first Leica (M9) in silver in 2011 with 35 mm f/2 and 50 summilux f/1.4. I started to take pictures for a local culture organisation in Lucerne (Switzerland). I was able to take pictures during concerts and also backstage. It was always a dream to me to work like a reporter with artists, being next to them as observer. Amazing moments are always before the gig starts, the members of the band are lazy, funny and relaxed. But then, after they entered the stage – their mind totally changed.The way they look and behave is totally different – you can feel they are passionated to their music. I try to be so close to the band to be able to freeze their expression to the picture.

Picture of the band “When Saints Go Machine” (Leica M9, 50 Summilux)

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This picture was taken during a concert of the danish band “when saints go machine”. It was nearly dark, hard to focus. I just work with available light with no extra flash etc. The M9 with max 800 ISO and summilux 1.4 was the best combination for me.

Developing Pictures

I grew up by the pictures of Anton Corbijn, especially the pictures he made of Depeche Mode. I knew it is hard to copy his contrast and sepia style – especially when adapting them in the digital world. I spent days on producing my own presets in lightroom to go in this direction. Every single picture of the M9 gave me a lot of post work, but the results never really kicked me.

Good friend of mine (Leica M9, 50 Summilux)

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Leica Monochrom

In august 2012 I could join the “St. Moritz workshop” with Steve McCurry, Jock Sturges and Amedeo M. Turello. Leica was the official sponsor during this 2 days workshop. I was able to use a pre-production Monochrom for half an hour with my lens and memory stick. After importing the RAW files in Lightroom I was just sitting in front of the screen astonished by the quality of the pictures that just came out of the camera with no additional post work. – I just could kick my M9 lightroom presets and was able to work with the monochrom files with just some fine post editing.

But as you may know, buying a Leica especially a Monochrom is expensive and it took some time until one camera was available at my personal camera store ;-) I sold the M9 with the summilux, bought the monochrom and a used 50 f/2 summicron. After some weeks working with the monochrom, I didn`t miss any color. No more taking decisions which color style would fit to the pics. I just felt home and free – I was now able to concentrate on the object in front of the lens. It just reduced everything to the minimum – my personally essence of photography.

Now I fully concentrate on having contact to the “model”, the composition of the background, everything just in black and white – an amazing feeling.

The good news about the monochrom are also the higher ISO compared to the M9. I use ISO 6400 as maximum – the results are still amazing.

dancing choreographer in zürich (Leica MM, 50 Summicron)

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In these pictures above I just added some contrast and blacks and have just the style I was always looking for.

It`s always interesting how the MM also interpret the lights. Like at the pictures above. Behind the woman is also a lot of light, but on the file it is almost black. After a photo sessions like with dancing choreographer, it is always a pleasure to me, looking at the screen and being fascinated what potential the camera has – that’s a kind of soul the camera has. It`s not just another gear that makes great pictures with high-resolution, no it`s just sees the light differently

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Printing services

Some words about online printing services. I tried out some of them over the last years, apple printing, whitewall (the official shop) and others. If you like to have the best out of your MM on paper I really can recommend the WhiteWall-Leica printing service. After registering your MM camera you have access to this shop. My recommendation is the “Lambda print” just on paper or paper on aluminium. The black parts of the picture are like painted, the fine details e.g. of the hair are amazing. Looking at the portraits is like looking directly at the face.

Gear I also use:

VSCO (film 1&2), MacBook Pro Retina 15.4”, Sony A7r – yes, I´m also one of them ;-)

Another Portraits all with Leica MM and 50 Summicron:

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Next time I will you tell a little bit more about my dancing photo sessions I took over the last years with different professional dancers from Angela Rabaglio, like this:

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Please give me feedback about my work under [email protected], my official website is http://marco-wolff-photography.com

Feb 192014
 

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One Journey Two Cameras

by Jason Howe - See his Website HERE, his Flickr is HERE

I’ve not long been back from a trip which took myself and my family back to the UK via a few other places, this wasn’t a photography trip but I’ve included a few of my favourite images picked up along the way. The are more images along with a more extensive write-up on my blog here – The Reluctant Tourist.

I have no idea how much time I wasted thinking about what gear I should take on this trip, certainly it was too much time. In the end I tried to keep it simple and went with what I’m most comfortable with, the Leica M Monochrom. For lenses I went all Voigtlander – 21/1.835/1.2 and 50/1.5. I also had a cheap PROST adapter which was all I could get hold of initially.

My gear plans went out of the window when the Sony A7R arrived by courier just a couple of hours before departing for the airport, at that point I really had little choice but to take it as leaving it meant I’d not see it again for 2 months. Obviously any new camera monopolises your attention and it also means a bit of a learning curve, it certainly did with the MM and the Sony A7R was the same just for different reasons.

I had a rocky start with the A7R, whilst I immediately fell in love with the OOC JPG’s I found focusing accurately at wide apertures to be almost impossible without magnification. Yes my eyesight is fine…

Image 1 – Sony A7R – 35mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.2 Asph Mk II – OOC JPEG

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Image 2 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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Image 3 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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Eventually, I started to get to grips with focusing the A7R utilising the magnifier but for me it’s a little clumsy and I still can’t achieve focus as fast or proficiently as I can with a rangefinder.

Image 4 – Leica M Monochrom – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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Image 5 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.2 Asph Mk II

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Touching on my original gear selection and with the benefit of hindsight it was totally flawed. I may prefer B&W but I still needed a colour option, fortunately the A7R filled this void. My biggest mistakes were in lens selection though, this was not a light bag!!! I allowed my curiosity to get the better of me and selected the recently acquired 35/1.2 over my v.1 Summicron. The 35/1.2 is optically superb but it’s huge and consequently heavy, in contrast the v.1 Summicron is tiny, light and optically superb. The 21/1.8 I just didn’t use, another weighty option. Instead I found myself wishing I’d taken the Summicron 90/2 on lots of occasions, a lens I’d been using quite frequently before I left. Now I didn’t carry all this everywhere, each day I’d select a camera and lens, on odd occasions I’d take two lenses but when you’re away for so long size and weight are big issues. The real winner was the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Asph, I really do love everything about this lens.

Image 6 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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Image 7 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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Image 8 – Leica M Monochrom – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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You’ll notice the next two images were taken with the Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA, having tried and failed to get my hands on this in NY I managed to get one in the UK. There were a couple of factors that drew me to the Sony A7R initially, one of those was having a FF camera with the ability to autofocus, there are certainly times when I’ve missed this and I’ve missed shots.

Image 9 – Sony A7R – Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA

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Image 10 – Sony A7R – Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA

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Image 11 – Leica M Monochrom – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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Image 12 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

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I’m still very much committed to working things out with the Sony A7R, Indeed I’ve just added the Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA to the kit and I’ll be endeavouring to become more proficient with the camera on all levels. For now, well the Leica M Monochrom is still my favourite camera, you can get great B&W’s from other cameras but there is just that bit of something special in the files from the MM, to my eye at least.

Cheers, Jason.

Feb 052014
 

Ralph Gibson Monochrome – 100% SOLD OUT at $28,000 each!

That was FAST. I had a feeling this special limited edition Ralph Gibson would indeed sell out because the set was absolutely jaw dropping gorgeous and there are always some out there looking for ways to spend their cash. Only 35 sets were made which included the Monochrom in a special limited edition color of chrome and black with a special Ralph Gibson signature on the top and a special edition 35 Summilux FLE. A fancy box and strap topped off this kit. Normally a Monochrom and a 35 Summilux would run you $13k so this one was more than double the cost of a normal set. It doesn’t do anything different but it sure is pretty!

So 35 lucky people out there have this beautiful set. The question is..how many will USE the camera and how many will sit the box on a shelf?

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Jan 102014
 

Hi Steve

I had a huge dilemma, I own the Leica MM ( which I love) and on the other hand I was curious about the Leica M 240 ( I know how much you love her, and so does Thorsten Overgaard and many others). So on Wed Jan 8th my friend who owns the 240 and I drove to Jerusalem in order to try to learn about the M 240.

The first few hours I took his M and put in my SD card and he took mine. Than we changed again to our own cameras. From what iso, the M is a very nice camera, built like all M rangefinders which means good and solid , so it does not take much to understand the very few changes and get used to it.

I loved the new shutter which is even more silent than my MM, what I did not like was the wheel on the upper right side, I kept bumping into it not really wanting to but I am used to holding my MM there while taking photos.

One more thing I did not like was the line of knobs-5 – on the left side instead of 4 on my MM , as they added the LV- Live view, this does not leave enough space for ones fingers ( and mine are slim) so sometimes instead of pressing the play I pressed the LV.

The colours are nice and yet I saw some tendency to red colour , especially on the faces which i had to fix on Lightroom. All in all it is a fantastic camera , easy to manipulate , simple and yet gorgeous.

Here are some pics from both

Take care

Danny

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Sep 252013
 

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Caucasus with a Leica MM, APO50 and X2

By Malik Abbassi-Antoine

Welcome to my 10 days road trip to the wonderful countries of Armenia and Georgia with a Leica Monochrom coupled with the incredible 50APO Summicron and a Leica X2.

Hello Steve and everyone. Thanks for sharing a little bit of your space and attention with me today. I always enjoy passing by and discovering your reviews or your readers’ field tests that are very often interesting and esthetically nice. So that’s pretty cool to contribute and have the chance to speak to a wider audience today.

1. Heading to Yerevan

Like many of you I have GAS. I know it’s bad but I have GAS. However, for nearly one year I am in love. Yes, one year ago my Leica dealer called me and told me about a new drug I could be interested in. The thing they name Monochrom. A black and white only device. Well, why not I thought, let’s give it a try. And that’s what I did. Immediate addiction. Few shots and it was done, it was home with me. And I am in love since then. Monochrom is a remedy to GAS, Monochrom is bringing me back to Monogamy.

Monochrom is all I need: The perfect combination of past and present. It is a Leica rangefinder, has a blowing dynamic range and high ISO capabilities. All I need when 99% of my M9P shots were converted in B+W. So I sold the M9P keeping MM as the only one digital device. But I had plenty of lens and just two M bodies. Brainstorming every time I wanted to go out and shoot: What lens shall I take? Worst when I was out: Oh, shall I shoot with the 35, 50 or 75, no maybe I need the 21…. Waste of time. Missing the point, missing where I should have really been focusing on: My subject. Therefore missing l’instant décisif praised by HCB. So I have started to think I should be selling off my lenses, keeping just one, a 50, my favorite one, so that I could improve my work and get concentrated on one thing: What I see in the rangefinder and where I go. And came the famous 50APO Summicron that I have been lucky enough to find fairly easily and rapidly. Perfect match, while the MM brought me back to Monogamy, 50 APO brought the MM to Monogamy. Perfect world… although I have to admit I still sometimes cheat on my MM with a X2 for landscapes and things that need to be color.

7. Dames - Goris

3. Thoughts in the Gas

Here we are in July 2013. 10 days off from work: The opportunity to see what I can do with “just” a MM coupled with an APO50 and a X2. The opportunity to rest and discover new things, satisfy my curiosity. Where to go to? What to do? Wanted something new, something far without being too far from Paris as 10 days are a short timeframe. Somewhere enriching, somewhere with a great cultural heritage, somewhere preserved from mass tourism, somewhere with some landscape diversity, somewhere new. Armenia and Caucasus came quickly in my mind… Read a lot about Armenia first: its history rich of thousands of years, Noah and the Arch on the Ararat (actually in Turkey nowadays but a strong symbol for Armenian people), churches and monasteries from the 4th, 5th, 6th centuries everywhere, mountains, the lake Sevan, the Karabagh, the war with Azerbaijan, hospitality of the Armenians, the wine, their lovely alphabet, among others…. So deal done, it had to be Armenia and Caucasus.

9. Cascades 1 - Yerevan

11. Spices shop - Tbilisi

And there we went for a 10 days trip on the Armenian roads –which as the title says also brought us in Tbilisi-Georgia for a short visit. We hired Garik, our driver, in Yerevan and we drove: Yerevan, Chor Virap, Goris, Stepanakart, Shushi, Sevan, Dilijan, Tbilissi and many other places. MM to shoot the streets / people with the 50APO and a X2 to shoot landscapes while in or out of the car.

2. Blurred Rider

4. Horse in the Mist

Simple but challenging method. Why? Well, hard white light from 10am to 5pm and 50mm is a bit narrow for street. I have been very frustrated at the beginning, and above all, very disappointed with the first meaningless results. But I have insisted, trying to adjust my vision, trying to forget about how I wanted to see things and trying to see things as they were, carpe diem as the motto. And things improved, I think. Started to adjust to the light, the people, anticipating the moments, and forgetting about the gear – had no choice but 50mm after all so stop whining and shoot. Anyway, the result is for you to judge now!

13. Regards - Yerevan

5. Waiting for the Lada

A quick word on my editing choice though as it might surprise some of you: You will not see the marvelous landscapes of Caucasus and the old churches of Armenia here. I have really tried to choose those that I enjoyed the most to capture and those that I felt where conveying something deeper than mere representation of a person or of a thing. That is also the reason why post processing of the black and white pictures aimed at giving an old look, conveying a sort of nostalgia.

8. Latchine - Shot

My keywords before leaving: Armenia is a wonderful country / Caucasus is beautiful and diverse / do what you want and shoot as you want (I have no lesson to teach here) but if you want to free yourself from GAS and gear addiction, go simple, try to travel light with one piece of equipment and shoot, save this money and travel more…. and of course…. I love my MM coupled with the 50APO! Thanks for your attention and I hope you will enjoy this selection!

12. Look in the Lada

You can see my other pictures here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/malikmm/

Sep 062013
 

Leica Monochrom IN STOCK at various dealers!

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It appears Leica has finally caught up with demand with ONE of their current M cameras. Yep, the $7995 Monochrom is available at various dealers without any wait whatsoever. While expensive, there is NOTHING like it on the market, period. It is the only current production camera with a dedicated Black & White Monochrom sensor. Many articles have been published here showing what this bad boy can do and if you have a spare $8k lying around and a hinger for Monochrom photography, this could be your baby for life :)

There is still no stock of the Leica M 240 or the M-E, which has been MIA for a couple of months it seems. The problem is that Leica makes these in cycles. They probably recently did a Monochrom run and then a 240 run is probably going on right now. Leica are like turtles, very slow but it seems they win at the end because they usually sell everything they make in the M world.

You can pick up the Monochrom right now at any of my recommended Leica dealers below:

I have given my Leica a break for the past 2 months because I have been concentrating on other reviews and preparing for upcoming reviews. But I can honestly say..I have missed using it. Even if a camera like the M 240 does not give you anything special in IQ over cameras like the RX1, D800, or 5DIII there is still a joy to using it, holding it and testing out all of the incredible lenses that can be used on the new M. Some of the classics are incredible AND cheap. In any case, I feel some M time coming on soon. :) The M 240 and Monochrom have my highest recommendation as do the dealers and sites above that sell them.

Sep 022013
 

The Palouse in Monochrome

A journey into luminance and splendor….

By Ashwin Rao – See his Flickr HERE

Hi my fellow friends, I’m back with an article based on a series of pictures taken during Steve’s most recent workshop in the Palouse, which I assisted in coordinating. (Ashwin did more than assisting and it could not have been done without him! – Steve)

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As you all are discovering from personal experience or from browsing through images of this beautiful place, the Palouse is truly a land of incredible and austere beauty. Filled are vistas of visions of a place lost to time. The Palouse is also known as a land known for its beautiful swaths of color. In the spring, landscapes are painted in blue, gold, and green, while in the fall harvest, it’s amber waves of grain through and through, and gold and blue dominate. In the winter, vast swaths of land gently blanked in snow. Needless to stay, it’s poetic stuff to even the visitor wielding the humblest point and shoot. It’s hard to take a bad picture in the Palouse.

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As I embarked on my second trip to this wonderful place, I began to consider my recent foray into black and white photography and decided to challenge myself by taking in the scenery of the Palouse in black and white. Instead of being able to see in color, I decide to challenge myself to see in light and shadow, white and black….to take the journey in Monochrom…pardon….monochrome.

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Along with me on the trip came 2 very capable cameras: The Leica M Monochrom and Pentax 645D. It was my goal to use the M Monochrom to frame my perspective. This being a camera that literally can only see in black and white, I was immediately forced to see in this manner. The other camera, one that I have written about before on this site, is the marvelous Pentax 645D, the bargain in medium format imaging and a camera that is destined to live on as a cult classic. While the Leica M Monochrom would allow me to shoot in my comfort zone, the Pentax 645D requires a more measured way of shooting, forces one to slow down, and allows one to reach far into the scenery to capture photographic vignettes via the wonderful tool of compressed landscape imagery.

As hsas been my way, I brought along with me several vintage lenses to use with the M Monochrom: The Leitz Super Angulon 21 mm f/3.4, The Leitz 8-element 35 mm f/2, The Leitz 50 mm f/2 Rigid Summicron, the Canon 100 mm f/2 LTM m, and the diminutive yet powerful Canon 135 mm f/3.5 LTM. I will write an article soon on the magical Canon LTM lenses at another time, but needless to say, I was well covered to capture images with the MM. With the Pentax came lenses including the 35 mm A, 75 mm FA, 120 mm FA, 150 mm FA, 200 mm FA, and 400 mm FA lenses…

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I found the challenge of shooting this wonderful land in black and white to be an invigorating one. In general, focusing on black and white photography can recalibrate the photographer, and I really do feel that it has re-calibrated by way of seeing. While in the Palouse, I found that “seeing in black and white” really channeled a sense of nostalgia into my eyes that then seemed to invade my photography. In some ways, I found that the MM and 645D suddenly became a time machine, transporting my must into the 1930’s, allowing me to take in the vistas with a time worn eye…or so I felt as I photographed the region.

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As I have mentioned many times before, using older lenses on the M Monochrom can be a true pleasure. Not only are most of these lenses far more affordable than their modern counterparts, but they often imbue a sense of charm in the way that they “paint” the scene.

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In most instances, I shot the Palouse stopped down to f/5.6 to f/8 on the M Monochrom and even more so using the 645D, which was nearly always mounted to my tripod.

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While the M Monochrom and 645D are incredible tools for black and white imaging, one can really use the approach to seeing in monochrome with any camera. All it takes is a frame of mind, shooting the camera in BW-JPEG (I don’t recommend this, but it is an easy way to go about it), or coming home and immediately converting your files to BW. That being said, I found that having the Leica M Monochrom gave me no other choice than to see the area in black and white.

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I hope that you all enjoy the images. Steve and I plan to organize future trips to the Palouse, so if you find these images inspiring, please take a moment to consider visiting the Palouse in the future. It has a way of inspiring you, and I hope that these images bring you a piece of my own inspiration and spark that same inspiration in you.

All the best, and until next time….

Ashwin

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Jul 192013
 

USER REPORT: Two months with the Leica Monochrom

by Andrew Gemmell

Hi Steve

I am writing to share my experiences to date with what would be one of the most controversial cameras ever released! The M Monochrome. I must admit, when it was first released I had never shot with a range finder camera and knew very little about Leica and the lenses.

I too thought it was absurdly priced for a black and white camera with an older CCD sensor. I still do!!

So how did I end up owning this camera? I have to pinch myself every now and then that I do. It all started with wanting a smaller camera to take out and use more often. No more DSLR. Firstly the x100 (great camera albeit a little frustrating, but aren’t they all at some point) and the OMD (great camera, great lenses and punches well above its sensor size). During this time I had started to read more about rangefinders and their attributes (and idiosyncrasies/drawbacks). The price for these cameras was/is mind blowing.

Lets just say curiosity got the better of me (don’t die wondering) AND I wanted to learn more about other types of cameras and systems (rangefinders in this case).

So when I was contacted by a friend that one was coming available I took the plunge. Am I a Leica fanboy?…..Not at all. I chose the Leica Monochrome for two reasons:

Leica really is the only genuine digital rangefinder game in town

It was an opportunity to see what my thought process would be using a black and white only camera and find out what all the fuss was about.

I have used the camera now for 2 months, all the while keeping my OMD in the event that we did not find a bond! In that 2 months I’ve picked up the OMD a handful of times to come back to it and see where my mind sits with colour (and camera enjoyment).

So where does my heart lie when it comes to which tool I prefer……?

The Monochrome.

Why?

Well it’s providing what I want in terms of the process of photography (a new challenge) and also one other key point ….SIMPLICITY. Compared to most digital cameras, there is minimal menu options and features to digest. There are no color aspects to consider. Just subject matter and composition. The color present in the world will deliver the tones that may just enhance the image.

On the topic of tones, it has been really interesting thinking in terms of tones vs. color. I do miss color, no doubt. But for now I will continue committing myself to seeing the world this way. There is beauty in all the tones from black, through the various grays.

Do I find it “liberating.” No.

But I do find it’s easier on my brain in this day and age, to move away from our feature/technology driven world, and use something which is a simple set up. This at the same time being able to retain the current high ISO capability and for the first time in my life try a full frame camera, which does have the ability to take on some incredible glass across a range of brands. For the record I use a 50mm 1.4 Summilux ASPH (80%), a 35mm 2.5 Color Skopar (Voigtlander) and a 15mm 4.5 Super Wide Heliar (Voigtlander).

All have different purposes for me -

The 50mm is the favorite…by a long way! It’s the lens I use to practice focusing to try an achieve those wonderful shallow depth of field images. Do this at 1.4 AND being on the move I marvel at the masters of this, e.g. Peter Prosophos (he’s partly to blame for this stage I find myself in, in the photographic journey :-)). I’ll keep practicing.

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The 35mm at 2.5 was intentional. This lens is not about DoF, but composition. I know when I go out with this lens it’s about this first and foremost (subject matter should always be present in my opinion) and not DoF. I find this lens a good tool to move in a different direction and help train my brain.

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Finally the 15mm is yet again another way I can challenge myself to see the world from a different perspective. It’s a fun lens, and a focal length I am learning to respect. Choose your subject wisely to get the best out of this lens!

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So come tomorrow the OMD will be sold, I’ll shoot some color on a film camera and continue my journey with the Monochrome. I do think about just how much it costs, but when I achieve the result I want….it’s the furtherest thing from my mind!

Above all else to anyone who reads this…..it’s not about the camera. It’s about being happy, learning and improving. It’s ok to try different cameras given there is so much choice now. If you have the three points I raised present in your photographic life, then go for it…try them all if you want to!

Andrew Gemmell

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