Aug 252014
 

Finding time for Photography with a Nikon Df

by D.J. De La Vega

Hi Steve,

The last article I sent to you was all about going the extra mile to make the time for photography. Setting aside dedicated time solely for the purpose of exploring my art. This article however is quite the opposite… It is all about my quest to juggle my photography with my family and work life.

First let me start by clarifying, I am a really, really lucky guy!!! I have an amazing family and a steady job, I could not ask for anything more from life, I want for nothing. When it comes to my favourite craft, there is simply not enough hours in the day for me to dedicate as much time as I would like to photography. For this reason I have become quite adept at shooting the everyday things that surround my every day life around my everyday routines. Always carrying a camera with me whether I am walking the dog with the kids in the park, popping to the shops or cycling to work in the rain. Historically my trusty X1 went with me no problems, small light and unobtrusive. However there are two main reasons I have drifted back to DSLR at the expense of the little powerhouse. Firstly, the X1 is quite delicate in it build quality. It really disagrees with being flung around, bumped and banged and heaven forbid it would ever get wet and dirty. Secondly I always shoot Raw with the compact and this is where the problem of finding time for my photography arose.

Post production for me has always been a headache, I much prefer shooting the photos, experiencing and capturing the moment. The though of sitting indoors staring at a screen endlessly editing photos on my prehistoric laptop send a shudder down my spine, especially if I have a lot to work through. This has led me to try to streamline my post production workflow.

Getting back to how lucky I am, I recently upgraded my D7000 to the magnificent Nikon Df. I learned photography on a Pentax K1000 and later acquired a Nikon FM2n, so getting back to the manual dials and classic style of shooting with the Df has really inspired me. The pace of using this camera is a mix of slow and methodical like my X1 but a lot faster and more responsive. I love the organic quality of the JPEGs from this camera and do not have to spend long at all tweaking them on the computer. Also enter into my life the new Adobe Photoshop Express app on Windows 8. This little app is a dream come true for me…I am new to the iPad/tablet generation but no longer do I have to log onto my ancient laptop to do “proper” photo editing. I can quickly pop the SD card straight into my tablet, adjust a couple of sliders on-screen and I’m done. Minutes instead of hours!
With all my modern conveniences now at hand it was time for a little vacation to visit family dotted around the country. With the Df permanently attached to my shoulder I had the pleasure of shooting some of my own stuff here and there in-between visits and family functions. Just a quick note on the build quality of the Df… it is brilliant. The right balance of sturdy metal ruggedness, but just about light enough to carry around all day every day.

It’d be my honour to share some of these shots with you and your readers to give me a bit feedback on how the finished articles stack up against my older work. Remember, I spent more time shooting than I did quickly and dirtily editing them, so go easy on me…

Photo 1: Shooting the fountains on the street in Peterborough.

A17_1107_small

 

Photo 2: Peterborough Cathedral Selfie… Correct me if I’ wrong, but I’m sure this is what the upward facing mirrors are for???

A17_1133_small

 

Photo 3: Peterborough Cathedral

A17_1148_small

 

Photo 4: The most nonchalant cyclist in London.

A17_1353_small

 

Photo 5: The Photographer Photographed, using what appears to be an Olympus film SLR.

A17_1355_small

 

Photo 6: The Photographer Photographed, using what appears to be a Canon DSLR. 

A17_1419_small

Photo 7: A classical underground busker. A great character and a fantastic musician.

A17_1426_small 

Photo 8: A beam of light in the Natural History Museum. With the weather and the queues I was lucky there was any light left that day. 

A17_1440_small

Photo 9: Lincoln Cathedral 

A17_1515_small

Photo 10: A view of Lincoln Cathedral.

A17_1547_small

 

Thanks for looking and thanks in advance for any feedback!
DJ De La Vega

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

@dj_delavega

http://instagram.com/dj_delavega/#

Jun 162014
 

A classic! A Leica X1 review article

By Adam Grayson

Huff-4390

Greetings!

As long time follower of your site, I am excited at my first opportunity to contribute. I have written an article about the Leica X1, titled “Yesterday’s News: The Leica X1 Review”. Below is the review for your, um, review.  Yesterday’s news: The Leica X1 review!

Released 09/09/09, the Leica X1 is certainly not today’s hot topic (the T is the current title holder now) and has likely been forgotten about as yesterday’s news by most of the photographic community. Heralding in a new era of the digital camera world with its fixed focal length, APS-C sensor in a small body, retro look and manual controls, it was considered to be the first of its kind that started a trend continuing through today. As the Leica T system ushers in a new kind of interface to the photographic world, I thought it would be relevant to share my experiences with this quirky but still very capable camera that was the talk of the town in 2009.

My experience with the X1 started in late 2010, well after its initial release. Not being able to financially justify the hefty price tag of a new X1, I patiently waited until the price in the used market came down to what I considered to be reasonable enough to make the jump. At that time, the camera brought me mixed feelings. The image quality was outstanding when everything came together, but most other times it was maddeningly frustrating. Maybe because I expected it to be as quick and versatile as my trusty old DLUX 4, or as reliable as my M8, but my initial experience left me wanting. After a few months of dedicated use, I decided to sell the X1 and chase photographic glory elsewhere.

So began my search for the ultimate APS-C fixed focal length camera. This journey took me through almost every form of the genre released on the market; from the retro-rific Fuji X100, to the uber-compact powerhouse Ricoh GR. Even the X1′s replacement model the Leica X2 passed through my hands at one point. All of the cameras had their strengths and weaknesses, but none of them really grabbed me, not even the X2 (a whole other story).

The closest camera that came close to staying in my stable was the Ricoh GR; what an amazing camera! It bests the X1 in many ways but it still did not have that feeling; the tactility in my hands, the manual controls, the desire to go out and take pictures with it. Something was always missing with the other cameras. You know, that elusive feeling that comes every so often when you really connect with a camera.

So what brought me back to the X1? It took an epiphany while shooting with the venerable Contax T2 (a fixed lens compact film camera) to see what I have been missing all along; stop trying to use the camera like a modern digital and shoot it like a film camera. Use a slower, more deliberate style of shooting. After coming to this realization, I had only one camera in mind to test my theory out. The X1.

Fast forward to February 2014. Found a great deal on a black X1 and went into the experience with a new mindset; don’t treat the camera like an automatic small-sensor point and shoot, treat it as a film camera like the Contax T2. Guess what? Yep, things went much better. Where blood pressure raising frustration used to kick in, now the zen calm of measured photography took place. Is the camera perfect? No. Will it hit the 100% “keeper” zone, especially with my ever-moving two-year-old? Certainly not. That being said, I find my keeper ratio close to that of my film cameras, even with the toddler in questionable light. I only use a 2 or 4GB card to ensure that I do not get in the digital “shoot, chimp, dump and repeat” mindset.

For those that may want to look at the X1, here are a few tips to get you on your way. First, keep your shutter speed above 1/60. Although you may think that 1/30 would work (as it does for me with Leica rangefinders), it tends to let the image get blurry quick, especially if the light is less than optimal.

Second, shot in DNG, all the time. No, really, all the time. Unfortunately the camera only takes DNG+JPG, and not just DNG (something about the camera’s software that cannot preview DNG files, so it grabs a stinky JPG). Delete the JPG and keep the DNG, even for black and white conversions. The latitude that the X1 DNG files give is pretty amazing. I have taken some photos in the unforgiving Florida sun and have been able to recover most of the blown highlights or deep shadows from most areas. The X1 can be frustrating, and a lot of shots can be missed if the camera is not understood. Used properly the X1 will reward you with some amazing photographs. My first time with the X1 stands testament to that, which is a good part of the reason why I came back.

The hype and fervor surrounding the Leica T is reminiscent of what the X1 went through in 2009. As a photographer, I look for cameras that create a connection with me. While the Leica T will one day end up in my hands, the X1 will still be in my bag bringing me exceptional photos that will last a lifetime for me and my family.

my photo blog can be found at www.uninspired.me

Huff-1000505

Huff-1000769

Huff-1000859

Huff-1000578

Huff-1000274

Huff-1090645

Huff-1000436

Huff-1000234

 

 

Jan 132013
 

L1066896

Myanmar-with a Leica X1 and “Kodachrome”

By John Shingleton

I have just returned from two weeks in Myanmar over Christmas and the New Year.

Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is the land that time has passed by.Once a jewel in the British Empire it gained independence from Britain in 1948.A military coup in 1988 led to estrangement from the West and the imposition of economic sanctions. Since 2010 Myanmar has moved back towards democracy. Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton visited late last year and sanctions are being lifted.

The sleeping beauty is waking up and re engaging with the world .

L1067579

And what a beauty it is .The years of sanctions have had a wonderful side effect leaving a beautiful country suspended in a less frantic time .No obsession with brands,no KFC, McDonalds, Starbucks ,Coca Cola or even a mobile phone system connected to the outside world and a beautiful, friendly, modest and highly religious people.They are very poor but seemingly content and their culture remains intact .On the other hand the infrastructure is very poor and the education and health systems are even worse and large sections of the country are still closed to tourists as the government fights separatist and insurgency movements in the north and west.

Myanmar has a basic mobile( cell) phone system but it is not connected to the outside world and anyway it uses old 2G and CDMA technology which is not compatible with western phones .There is internet/wi fi access in the main population centers but it is slow apparently.It is not a place for tourists who want 24/7 connectivity. I left all my mobile devices at home.It was so liberating and so much easier at airline security.I’ll do it more often.

L1066969

Since the sanctions were lifted tourism is expanding very rapidly but it needs a big investment to handle the projected numbers.Sadly the portents are not good for this growth being tasteful with massive, crass overdevelopment of tourist facilities in nearby Thailand,Bali,China and particularly Vietnam showing how easily beautiful places can be wrecked.The Myanmar I saw may have been a once ever opportunity.All the precedents suggest that in 5 to 10 years it will be gone .I count myself very lucky to have seen it now.

If you are considering visiting go now but only visit if you are prepared for an extraordinary experience involving third world conditions.Don’t even think about going if you want “home away from home”or you don’t like dust and the smoke from cooking fires in the morning and evening.

L1066973

I flew into Yangon( formerly Rangoon) then upto Mandalay and then sailed slowly down the Ayeyarwady ( formerly the Irrawaddy) River on a traditional river boat for 8 days stopping at towns and villages on the river banks which are not usually accessed by tourists.It was an extraordinary trip.

For this trip of a lifetime I took my Leica X1 compact camera with a Voigtlander optical viewfinder,one spare battery ,battery charger and just one SD card .I also ,wisely ,took a Kiwi filter tube,lens hood ( $40 off eBay) fitted with a B&W clear filter.I used this the whole time and it protected the camera and the lens from the all-pervasive dust.I had my Canon G9 in my bag as a reserve for any mishaps..

For readers who are not familiar with the X1 it is a Leica made compact camera with a fixed 24mm (equivalent to 35mm on a full frame 35mm) F2.8 lens and an APSC sized sensor.It is a much maligned camera and as I described in an earlier post on this site see http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/02/13/from-leica-3a-to-x1-a-51-year-journey-by-john-shingleton/ I struggled with mine in its early days but now I love it although I sometimes feel that Steve Huff,myself and one of my friends are its only fans! At the end of the day I don’t care what all the forum “experts” think of it because it takes beautiful images and it has simple controls and easy to access menus.It does not have IS,GPS,WI FI or take movies.It just takes superb still pictures which suits me .Having just a fixed lens does involve compromises but in so many ways it makes things easier as I do not have to make any decisions on which lens to use and it is so light to carry -a critical factor after years of carrying bags of gear around.Been there done that-had a sore back to prove it.

L1067008

Not having a long lens means that I really have to be in a subject’s face when taking people shots and so I developed a technique for doing this without ,hopefully, causing any offense .In fact it invariably generated smiles all round as well as some great images.

I took about 320 photos over the 14 days of the trip .Pretty restrained by most people’s standards equivalent to 9 rolls of 35mm film but I am trying to adopt a more deliberate and considered film photography like approach to taking digital photos.I deleted about 100 of these on the trip and then culled them down to 110 when I put them onto the computer back home .I ended up with 110 images which I am really pleased with including perhaps some of the best photos I have ever taken in the past 50 years.I am a great believer in being a very tough editor .It’s easy to take bad photos so why keep them? They just use up hard dive capacity .So I am brutal and discard everything which is not “very good” or at least “very good” by my criteria.

L1067390

I have always been a big fan of the photography of Steve McCurry who has shot many great photos in the Middle and Far East including the iconic Afghan girl photo which graced the cover of National Geographic magazine and has since been published thousands of times .McCurry was the master of Kodachrome slide film with its big,sharp ,supersaturated images.In fact Kodak selected him to shoot the last roll of Kodachrome manufactured in 2010.

L1066998

I loved Kodachrome and if we were still all using film I am sure that I would have used it on my Myanmar trip to try to emulate Steve McCurry.Anyway I did the next best thing I emulated Kodachrome as far as possible by shooting all my pictures as both RAW and JPEG files.I shot the JPEGS on the Leica’s vivid setting and they are the big surprise .They really are vivid and they remind of Kodachrome.They may not be natural but to me they say very loudly “this is Myanmar” and that’s what I wanted.I hope that you appreciate my personal take on a very unique place.

If you would like to see many more images from the trip go to therollingroad.blogspot.com

 

Dec 242012
 

Photographic Road Trip II: Tuscany

by D.J. De La Vega – His Flickr HERE

It has been over a year since my photogenic adventure, traveling around New York State. The itch once again had to be scratched so I set off on another deliberately photogenic road trip, this time around Tuscany, Italy. The age old dilemma about which camera and kit to take had been put to bed a long time ago and as was now accustom, I set off with just my trusty and arguably antique Leica X1. The only thing that has changed with my steadfast companion is that the X1 has now been converted to “travel mode”: i.e. for this journey I have removed the viewfinder and grip to make it as portable as possible and I have it wrapped in the fantastic JnK half leather case. I can not recommend this style of case highly enough. They make what is undoubtedly a delicate camera sturdy and robust, allowing you to be a lot more gung-ho!

With the little Leica hanging from my neck, sufficiently protected in its trendy leather jacket my plane landed in Pisa. I had heard a few mixed reports about Pisa, mostly playing down how much there was to see and do aside from the Cathedral and “Leaning Tower”. Undoubtedly the main tourist attractions, (the Cathedral, Baptistery and Bell Tower) are the highlight of the compact city center, and deservedly so. They are a triumph of medieval / Romanesque architecture and are endlessly photogenic. However as I previously talked about in my first road trip article, at such iconic places, it’s hard to get a result different to that of any postcard readily available within 10 yards of said attraction.

001

002

I like to engage in a mix of photographic genres in these circumstances. A few “postcard” keepers and then explore more thoroughly the environment with a fusion of documentary and street photography. At this point I have to reiterate how perfect the X1 is for this kind of work, if anyone out there is in the market for a small high quality compact, you can pick these things up for buttons second hand and IMHO they still wipe the floor image quality-wise with many/most shiny new cameras and they come with a free red dot that gives a pride of ownership nothing can compete with :-)

006

005

004

003

Apologies, now firmly off my pedestal, I continued on my journey… From Pisa I jumped on a train south to Sienna. I promised Steve I would keep this article short and sweet so I will try not go into the historical and cultural ins and outs of each place, just briefly comment on a few of the photographic opportunities that presented themselves to me in each location.

008

007

As the day progressed, the sun’s rays struggle to work its way through the towering architecture to fully illuminate any given subject. I was drawn to the lines and shadows this created by and chased the last glorious beams of the day to this secluded and peaceful square behind the Duomo.

009

I also found at night the wonderfully illuminated sculptures and buildings contrasted magnificently with their formerly sun lit/shadowy selves.

010

So far I had traveled by plane and train so it was now time for the obligatory automobile. A cramped but worthwhile bus ride to an outstanding hill top town called San Gimignano was next on the agenda. This small, walled, medieval town was a fantastic place to walk the winding cobbled streets with a camera at hand. I found the surrounding scenery to be as equally enjoyable as the well preserved towers and buildings perched precariously atop the hilly landscape, reaching for the sky.

011

012

013

The next day, more buses and trains ensued and the birthplace of the Renaissance and the capital city of Tuscany was next on my list: Florence. They say Florence has more great works of art per capita than anywhere in the world and you can readily see this wherever you explore. An endless array of beautiful paintings sculptures and architecture is the reward for your endeavours.

014

015

I found Florence to have a different ambiance to the other places I had visited so far. It is more of a working, busy city and less of a tourist filled, pristine world heritage site. This helped me remove my postcard hat and focus more on street photography.

016

017

From Florence to Lucca, I began to see a see a theme developing in my images. There were arches of all descriptions dispersed all around Tuscany, begging to frame subjects for me.

018

Lucca is another walled medieval city, masterfully preserved and awash with a labyrinth of cobbled streets. Unfortunately for me and my X1, at this time on my travels, torrential rain had set in. This made for a few interesting street captures, but mostly it made for stopping indoors with my now close acquaintance Birra Moretti.

019

The only time the sun managed to bless me with its presence, I grabbed one last shot of the Piazza Amphitheatro. This is the main square in Lucca, and remarkably for a square, its oval. I could not get over how magical the scene was as the sun lit up the glorious colours of the buildings in the Piazza, whilst the black stormy clouds still lurked ominously in the distance.

020

Those awesome clouds, as beautiful as they were evil… Continuously threatening me and my X1 with their hellish watery cargo. After that final ray of light in the Piazza, there was no further let up in the rain. That unfortunately and abruptly brought my time in Lucca to an end, and to complete the round trip of Tuscany, I returned to Pisa to fly home. My only thoughts were now of where my next adventure may be… I hear Bavaria makes nice beer :-)

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Steve again for the privilege of sharing my thoughts and shots on his awesome site!

DJ

 

Dec 192012
 

fighting

Gear Acquisition Syndrome…Fighting the addiction by Emil Cobarrubia

Hi Steve,

My name is Emil and like many other readers out there, I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years now and have been using it for camera gear reference and as a window to hear/see other people’s experiences. Photography is not my profession nor are my skills at capturing images are in any way “professional”. I’m actually very new to this medium. However, it is something I’ve grown to love and feel passionate about. It’s allowed me to discover wonders in things I would’ve normally overlooked.

After becoming a little intimate with the process of capturing images, one tends to hit the forums, blogs, and review sites to get a glimpse of other people’s experiences, advices, and of course, their equipment.

While wandering around these places, it’s hard not to come by such catch-phrases as “Bokeh!”, “Leica look!”, “AF speed”, “Retro-Design!”, and “Full Frame”! Boy, what strong adjectives these are. Of course they sparked my curiosity. I found myself saying, “Wow that’d be cool to have!”

Countless threads, forums, blogs, and reviews later….the hunger and temptation grew stronger. Everyone was talking about it…… how could I ever snap another frame without the Leica look and creamy bokeh?! How could I ever capture another image without the fastest AF?!

And so, this short reflection is about how I forgot what made me happy about photography and how I made a spiraling descent into what we’ve all come to know as Gear Acquisition Syndrome :).

 

Nikon D800

1dsc_1755_bw

2(Day 1) - DSC_4438

3dsc_0657_3

4dsc_6619_br

One of the big decisions for me was waiting for the next Nikon full frame camera. I had my eye on the D700 for a while to replace my then-current D90. I loved the high ISO capabilities the D700 showed and hoped that Nikon’s successor would have the same level of ISO capabilities. Then came the announcement of Nikon’s behemoth D800 with talks of even outdoing the D700 in terms of ISO. That was my chance and calling. The preorder was in and I finally had my first full frame camera. I mounted the Nikkor 24-70 and love it dearly…. but man….. is that thing heavy!

 Leica X1

5L1020208_bw

6l1040596_fr

7l1040831

I had a backup camera, or at least a camera to compliment the SLR, since I had my D90. This camera was the Leica X1.

I remember looking at images from the Leica X1 on this site for the first time and was simply floored by the quality. I just couldn’t believe that this little machine was pumping out images similar (and better) to my then-current D90. The lens had great character, files looked amazing in B&W, and to top it off, it physically looked like no other digital camera out there. It was a fun tool to use and more importantly, I was able to freeze memories that were dear to me. And to be honest, the AF didn’t bother me because I wasn’t shooting moving subjects. If anything, it forced me to put a little more thought into the image I was capturing…..something I wasn’t doing with a SLR. Truth be told….. I was happy.

But being happy didn’t stop me from roaming the forums, review sites, and comparison videos to learn more about my new X1.

I wanted to hear other people’s experiences with the camera, see what they thought about it, see what other images the X1 had produced. And in doing so, it’s not unlikely to come across criticisms.

The more I read about how people were unhappy with the X1′s AF, low-res screen, lack of VF, telescoping lens, loose dials, the need to remove the handgrip to replace the SD card or battery, the shutter lag, lack of video recording… the more my brain was conditioned to dislike it. The delight I felt with this camera was replaced with a degree of regret.

“Did I get the right camera?”, “Is there a better one out there that offers better IQ, better AF etc. for less money?” were some of the questions I began asking myself.

And while there ARE valid and practical answers to these questions, the real question should be, “Why ask yourself such questions if you are, indeed, already happy?”.

Unfortunately, it is sometimes not as easy to come to this realization when you’ve become stimulated, curious, and excited.

Excited not about capturing your next image, but excited about capturing your next camera…….

Olympus OMD EM5

8(Day 19) - DSC_5617

9P1010110

The OMD could’ve been the answer to the X1 for me: approximately the same size, Muhammad Ali-like AF and continuous shooting, cirque du soleil-image stabilization, HFR EVF, metal construction, weather sealing, customizable controls, tilt-able touch-screen LCD, kitchen sink, butler, tax accountant etc. It really was a night-and-day difference compared to the X1. Micro 4/3 has also came a long way and started becoming close, if not equaling, to the quality of APS-C sensors. It really is a knockout.

With all the OMD’s positives and breakthrough features over the X1, for some reason, I never got attached to it.

I did end up missing the IQ of the X1. Not to say the IQ of the OMD is bad… it’s very good actually.

IQ became my priority and so, around the Fujifilm corner, word of a new firmware update came rumbling about. An update that actually made the X100 into completely different camera than when it was released. Some have claimed to rarely never miss a shot with the new AF and that the SAB problem was discretely addressed. Well….curiosity got the better of me once again and I was excited about capturing the new camera and not the next image.

The OMD? Returned.

 Fuji X100

10(Day 34 - Sept 3) - DSC_5743

11dscf0849

12dscf0895

The experience I had with the X100 was sublime. Being a late adopter, I had no experience with the issues some have mentioned (i.e. slow AF, sticky aperture blades etc.). I felt as if this should’ve been the one I got in the first place…. instead of the X1. It had a built-in OVF/EVF which is actually quite fun and gave a very unique shooting experience. The AF, after the firmware update, was much faster than the X1 (yet a little slower than the OMD). It was something I instantly connected to.

The one thing that sold this camera for me…..the colors. I found Fuji’s color rendering to be very pleasing. The skin tones were just wonderful. Another thing I loved with the X100 is how the lens renders lens flare when shooting into the sun. The X100 is a damn good camera and I can understand why people swear by their X100s.

Once again, I was happy and there couldn’t be another camera out there that could sway me from my X100.

But…..………What’s this I hear about some X-Trans sensor with no AA filter and a mighty 35mm f1.4 that gives some Leica glasses a run for their money?

The X100? Returned.

Fuji X-Pro 1

13dscf0091

The X-Pro 1 + 35mm combo is beast. IQ was just a big fat “wow”. Another great camera which I adopted later on… post firmware 2.0. I didn’t experience the so-called dreadful AF speeds. One thing I did immediately noticed about the X-Pro 1 which was kind of annoying: While wearing polarizing sunglasses, the VF is black. Close to a deal breaker for me as I have prescription sunglasses and taking them off to see through the viewfinder……..well let’s just say I won’t see anything at all :)

Anyhow, like many others out there, the X100 was my point of reference when looking at the X-Pro 1. The VF on the X-Pro 1 was smaller than the X100, no diopter, OVF frame lines weren’t as accurate as on X100 etc. However, the X-Pro 1 did have some welcome features over the X100 such as the high-res LCD screen and the colors were just as good if not better than the X100. Noise was also a key difference and ISO 6400 is quite usable.

I know there are problems out there with RAW conversion and most will prefer the traditional Bayer pattern sensor for easier processing, but I feel there is some magic to be found in the X-Trans sensor.

So that’s it! I’ve made up my mind! I’m going to keep the X-Pro 1! It does everything the X100 does, and in some areas, better…..I just wish it was a little smaller…. you know….about the size of the X100.

The X-Pro 1? Returned.

Fuji X-E1 (taken with D800) – (from Steve: looks like the strap and button from my “Pimp Your X100 Article)

14DSC_8181_pp

15DSCF1488 color mod

16DSCF1517 color mod

Damnit.

In the End

So I’ve went on to describe my experiences and how I felt with each camera, reiterating the pros and cons you all probably know by heart. Yet I never commented or mentioned anything about the photographs………..instead I chose to share opinions about the camera I was using. I’ve embodied the consumer and I hope to come back to reality and be thankful I even have something to capture a memory or tell a story with.

A fancier word processor doesn’t make a novelist a better novelist and a Steinway does not make a pianist a better pianist.

Hopefully, by writing this, it can bring light into the whole “gear acquisition syndrome” thing. I feel it all just leads to unhappiness, uncertainty, and money loss. We can enjoy photography without feeling obligated to get the latest & greatest.

With that being said, I’m keeping my X-E1. I love it and it’s helped me freeze the moments I wanted to keep.

Like Steve said, it’s a great time to be into photography and there are some great cameras out there…. Just don’t lose focus and let it take away the passion and energy…… unless of course it’s the new M or RX1……. Just kidding ;) !

Emil

May 302012
 

The Leica X2 Review – Can Leica still win us over with their charms?

Here we are at the end of May 2012 and I have been shooting with the new Leica X2 for just about a week. I have shot quite a few snaps and images with it already (I am a slow going type of shooter, NOT a machine gunner) and have found it has given me some really cool keepers that I am happy with. It’s a funny thing because when the original Leica X1 came out I loved it, and for good  reason.

The IQ the little X1 put out was astonishing, especially for the time it was released

When that good looking X1 was released there was not much out there that could compete in that size and weight for IQ until a while later when the Fuji X100 came out. That X100 must have sent a chill down Leicas spine as I know for a FACT that it ate into the X1′s sales…and thunder.

With the Fuji we have an APS-C camera that has retro styling, a built in hybrid OVF/EVF, a nice and fast (and very good) built in 35mm equivalent lens with a fast aperture of f/2 and even though it was a bit quirky to operate, many felt that it was a better alternative to the Leica X1…and get this, it  was even $800 less expensive!

As the newer cameras in this class starting hitting the scene, the X1 started to appear more like a beautifully designed dinosaur with no EVF, slow focusing, no video (some prefer this) and limited close focusing capabilities. It was obvious Leica needed an X2 so they could get back in the game with an X camera that had the IQ of the X1 with the speed and usability of the newest cameras. Just imagine a speedy X1 with a built in EVF, low noise up to ISO 6400, a faster lens to match the F/2 of the Fuji and that same beautiful design of the X1. Hmmmm. Well, that is what I was REALLY hoping for in an X2 and spoiler alert… that didn’t happen.

I highly recommend clicking on all images in this review to see the larger versions which have better sharpness, color and look much nicer!

The Leica X2 at ISO 2000

Speaking of Fuji, Even Fuji has appeared to rip off the X name from Leica with the X100 and now X-Pro 1, throwing it in Leica’s face. By releasing an X2 with a sturdier design, built in EVF, longer battery life and faster AF without raising the cost would have surely put Leica over the top in the small camera/large sensor market wouldn’t it? I think that YES it would have, and they could have shown Fuji a thing or two in the process!

So we all waited and waited.

Then small camera started appearing out of the woodwork as manufacturers decided they wanted a piece of the mirrorless pie. Nikon released the small and very solid performing V1 and even though the sensor is a small and tiny, the V1 excelled at fast AF, motion tracking, video, exposure metering and it even had a GREAT EVF built in. It had limitations of slow lenses and almost no shallow depth of field but I really like the V1 for what it is and what it does as it is SO much more than a point and shoot and pretty much foolproof. With the V1 we have once again a highly capable camera at around $750 that kills the X1 in usability, AF, tracking, close focus, EVF use and video. BUT OF COURSE, not image quality. No it doesn’t match the Leica IQ but then again, it is much less expensive and does everything else better.

Then we have other cameras like the Ricoh GXR, Sony NEX-7 and the new OM-D which now all surpass the X1 in ALMOST all areas. To my eyes, the only camera that surpassed or equalled the X1 in IQ is the Fuji X100. It is true that the X1 files have a look.. a crispness and beauty that is hard to find in other cameras. I think it is a combo of the Leica glass, the larger sensor, and Leica’s color signature that helps to make those X1 files look so good. The only problem with the X1 TODAY is that it suffers from slow use, slow writing, low res LCD, slowest AF in its class, fragile build, dials that move too easy, and a few other niggles I won’t get into, but one more is that there is NO EVF.

But how is the new X2? Did Leica deliver?

So now that I have been using this gorgeous looking factory fresh chrome X2 (and yes, you can see how gorgeous it is in the title pic at the top of the page), how do I feel it stacks up against the X100, the NEX-7 and the other cameras in the same class? Read on to find out but keep in mind that this review will be much shorter than the over 10,000 word X1 review I posted almost three years ago (this one will be around 6400 words) simply due to the fact that this new X2 is really just like an X1, but with a new sensor and a few new features. The IQ has really stayed the same with the same overall look as the X1 but maybe with even better color. But then again, maybe not. As I look back, those X1 pics are just as good looking as the X2 pics.

The X2 at f/4 and ISO 100

I do have to say that this camera is physically GORGEOUS in the silver chrome finish (wait, didn’t I say that already)?. At first, I did not really care for the newly introduced black hump that can now house a Leica EVF that sells for $575 but have since gotten used to it, especially since I added the EVF. But I did not buy a $575 Leica EVF, I simply used the $215 Olympus EVF, THE VF-2. The best thing about this EVF is that it is tillable and that equates to some really cool angles you can get when using it.

But remember that the Olympus VF-2 is the same exact EVF that Leica sells for $575 except that it says Olympus instead of the big LEICA letters on the Leica version and it may have a little bit of a different shape up top..more rounded. So the design and name is different.

UPDATE: There was one occasion where the Olympus VF-2 did scramble the image in the EVF display and  had to restart the camera. I have since been testing the Leica EVF and this has not happened. So I am not 100% sure that they are both 100% the same. They both work the same but there could be something in the Leica that is not in the Olympus as far as compatibility. The scrambled view only happened ONCE with the Olympus VF-2.

So what is new in the Leica X2 over the X1?

Here is what is new in the X2:

  • Brand new 16MP high performance sensor with ISO up to 12,500. It is really not very usable at 12,500 and really noisy at 6400 if you shoot in low light so I would stick to going up to 3200, which is what I did on the X1 anyway. The color is great as is the sharpness and detail. The X2 retains that “look” so many loved about the X1 though I wouldn’t say there is a huge improvement in higher ISO shooting say at 3200, which to me appears  to be really close to what the X1 gave us.
  • Slightly new design and beefier build. Yep, Leica has officially ditched the steel grey and I am happy they they did so. The Steel grey M9 and X1 were so easy to scratch and the chrome is classic Leica, so this is how it should be. The X2 is available in Chrome and Black and I prefer the chrome. The new covering is improved as well and is more “grippy” with a rubber like feel. The flash has been redesigned to stop it from accidentally popping up and to also give better and more even flash performance. The dials are not much stiffer and do not turn nearly as easily as they did on the X1. You actually have to put some force behind it, which is good. The back remains the same with the same crappy low res LCD (shame on Leica for this one) and the same button layout and control scheme. Overall the X2 is more beautiful to my eyes but some will prefer the even simpler and more laid back X1. The X2 is also slightly heavier and somehow feels a little more solid and substantial than the X1, just as it should be for a Leica.

  • Better Battery Life – Much better battery life. I shot all weekend with it and still have 3/4 of my battery left. This is great.
  • Ability to use the new external tilting EVF. This is good and it is  bad. I really wish it were a built in EVF but this is a case of “we get what we get and shouldn’t throw a fit”. This is it guys. A big wart of an external EVF made by Olympus. The good thing is that is swivels for waist level shooting.
  • Faster Auto Focus – THE ONE thing that plagued the X1. Has it improved? Leica says so, but what do I think? Keep reading to find out.

The ability to add an external EVF, though it does add a huge bump to the camera which in turn takes away from its beautiful design. It’s a pro and a con because it adds great functionality but takes away from the size and design. WHY OH WHY did Leica not put in a built in EVF? To me, this is sort of a fail as they could have put one in, even if it was a simple optical VF. THIS alone would have made this camera so so so much more desirable, trust me Leica! With that said, the performance of the Leica/Olympus EVF is superb. The fact that it swivels is really cool as you can place the camera by your waist and look down into the finder/EVF. If you must have the LEICA text written on the front, buy the Leica :)

 

The X2 at f/2.8 and ISO 100 – WOW. Such depth and color and detail here, even wide open.

-

Many SCREAMED! “Leica Dropped The Ball With The X2″!

So after three years and all of the competing cameras it seems Leica did not learn much of anything, either  that or they said “screw it, we are Leica..we do what we want”. They omitted a built in EVF and decided to charge $575 for a $215 Olympus EVF. They kept the same low res LCD on the back that was in the X1 when ALL other cameras today have MUCH better LCD’s on the back of the camera. They kept the same design and just modified the flash and color/design of the camera. The grip covering has changed as well (for the better) and they did NOT add any video whatsoever. The AF has indeed improved though. So basically all we get is the new sensor which in reality doesn’t do too much but add 4 more megapixels, higher ISO capabilities and supposedly faster AF speed. The GOOD thing is the price has stayed the same at $1995. Yes, this is GOOD because if this was  raised to $3000 then Leica would not have sold many of these at all. At $1995 Leica has managed to add just enough to the camera to improve upon it while making us Leica fans WANT IT.

So do I think Leica dropped the ball? Well, yes and no. I think if they added a BUILT IN EVF or OVF and even if they had to raise the cost to $2295 it would have been a grand slam hit. This design and this quality with a built in viewfinder would have NAILED IT for me because I LOVE LOVE LOVE the image quality the X1 and X2 pump out. I also love the design, the simplicity and controls, and the 35mm focal length equivalent. But you have heard me before..I think ALL enthusiast cameras today should have a built in VF of some kind. PERIOD. So in this way Leica dropped the ball and lost some sales but in other ways, they have stayed true to what Leica is all about.

SIMPLICITY and QUALITY

The camera is small, sleek, nicely designed, light but hefty, and has a very sharp and crisp lens. The camera puts out amazing IQ and color and you can tell just by looking at it and using it that it is a true Leica. So by Leica not adding gizmos and gadgets and video, they have stayed true to what they are and retained many customers who will WANT to upgrade their X1 to and X2. Besides with the X2 you can also use the optical external VF which some prefer.

How about the AF speed? The one big weakness of the X1..has it improved? Well…YES!

Ok. This is what everyone wants to know. How is the AF speed of the X2. At $1995, almost $2000, we should expect the X2 to at least be as good as modern day mirrorless cameras right? Well, maybe not so much.  I was hoping so but the fact is that while it is quite a bit faster and responsive than the X1, the X2 is now about the same as the firmware upgraded Fuji X100, maybe a teeny but quicker to lock focus. My Olympsu OM-D blazes with every lens I have tried on it, even the 25 1.4. The Nikon V1 is instant in its AF. The NEX-7 is medium fast so the X2 is doing MUCH better  than the older X1. I do find it faster than the X-Pro 1 as well. I also noticed in low light the X2 is now MUCH faster to AF than the old X1. It doesn’t seem to hunt either (unlike the X-Pro 1, which was a deal breaker for me). Overall I was a bit let down by the AF speed boost but at the same time, when in real use, I had no issues. I had no mis-focused shots or missed shots due to hunting. Well, I did have one but I was shooting blind :)

The only shot I had that missed focus, but that is because I held out the camera blind, so this one was my fault :)

So the bottom line on the X2 AF abilities? Do not use it for action, sports or running kids and you will be OK. Much better than the X1 but not as speedy as an Olympus OM-D, which boasts the fastest AF in the works BTW.

All of this should come as no surprise as it is not a camera meant for those sorts of things anyway. I see the X2 as a “mini M” with a permanent 35mm equivalent focal length attached and it has that Leica feeling when you hold it and shoot it, and yes, even when reviewing the photos. It is a camera that does its best when you see the shot, compose the shot and take your time getting the shot. It is NOT a run and gun type of camera. In fact, the overall performance of this camera is on the slow side. Writing to the card is slow and on a few occasions I had the camera hang up while it was writing but unhang when it was finished writing. Just for a second or so though. It does not feel like a fast operating camera like the Olympus OM-D and Nikon V1. It feels more like the X100 in use (speed wise)..a working and thinking mans camera.

Me and my fiancée Debby Window Shopping with the X2 and EVF

-

ISO 3200 at night time – Yes, it can get grainy when shooting at night but I dig the look and feel of this one anyway!

-

Man washing windows…

-

Compared To the NEX-7 and Olympus OM-D. Oh, and now the Fuji X100!

UPDATED! Now added a comparison with the Fuji X100!

Honestly, the hot camera around my house these days is the Olympus OM-D with the Panasonic 25 1.4. When the X2 arrived I was wondering if it would have what it takes to bump that OM-D out of my hands :) In many ways it does, and in others NO. The IQ and images I get from the X2 I have been liking a bit more than the images I am getting from the OM-D. I just like that “X” look, and yes there is a look to these files that is NOT in seen anywhere else. But using the camera is slow going when directly compared to the OM-D.

I decided that since I had these cameras here in the house, why not do this comparison? I took a shot with each camera. The Leica X2, the Olympus OM-D and The Sony NEX-7. All were using 35mm or equivalent focal lengths and the Olympus had a 50mm equivalent so it’s NOT a scientific test at all. Just a few shots to show how each camera rendered the scene. These are all from RAW. All were shot at f/4 and base ISO of each camera was used.

Click each image to see larger version and full 100% crop

-

To me, the OM-D takes the #1 spot for sharpness and detail though it is so so sharp, almost too sharp. The X2 colors are really nice and the NEX-7 looks good.  One thing to note is that the OM-D was the quickest in operation, the NEX-7 2nd and the X2 was the slowest to focus, shoot and write to the card..AND to shut down as it takes about 2-3 seconds to do so. So while Leica has improved a few things with the X2, they are sort of minor things that were improved upon. It is not like going from an M8 to M9. More like gaining a little bit of a speed boost, much better battery life, sturdier build and of course the EVF capability. At the end of the day the images coming from the X2 look like they could have come from the X1, and I guess that is a good thing. Actually, I KNOW this is a good thing.

Compared to the Fuji X100

I shot these on a tripod at f/2.8 and f/4. No processing or sharpening was done to these at all and these are as they came out of the RAW converter, which was Adobe Camera Raw. One thing you can notice is how warm the X2 white balance is (auto was used to see what each camera puts out at these settings) which his what lends to the pleasing images that come out of it. In comparison, the Fuji rendering is cooler/bluer. I am a fan of warm but remember, these settings can be changed during RAW conversion if desired.

Click each image for larger size and full size crop. ALL from RAW, no PP, NO sharpening added. 

-

Compared to others (in words)

X2 compared to the OM-D E-M5 – OK, I have raved about the OM-D and for good reason..it is a fabulous little camera, and I am not the only one to say so. Just about everyone who has shot with one has stated that THIS is the camera that has finally matured Micro 4/3. The OM-D is FAST, has amazing in body IS, great image quality, a high res swivel LCD, superb fast lenses to choose from, weatherproof so no worries if in the rain, amazing quality video, and a nice built in EVF. All for about $1100 or so. $900 less than the X2. Add a kick ass amazing lens like the Panasonic 25 1.4 and that brings you to $1600 or so, still $400 less than an X2. So why would anyone buy an X2 that appears to use outdated technology (no IS, old low res LCD, no built in EVF, slow write times, etc) when you can get the hottest camera of 2012 for cheaper? Well, at the end of the day it’s about the images right? If a camera is easy to use AND capable of giving superb results then isn’t that what really matters? IMO the E-M5 is indeed the better bang for the buck camera, no question. BUT the X2 will give you a bit better and dare I say…more film like and richer files/colors. It will be slower but you will get less digital looking images from it. This comes down to asking yourself what you need. Do you need speed and versatility (OM-D) or ultimate IQ and simplicity? (X2) The X2 is also much slimmer and smaller.

X2 compared to the NEX-7 – The NEX-7 was the big camera of 2011 and 2012 because it was the 1st to offer everything in one body full of technology. The only issue with the Sony is that the damn thing operates more like a computer than a camera. It is so filled with technological advances and controls you really feel like you are out with a “device” instead of a camera. Other than that, once set up and with a good lens it delivers great results. It is a little faster to AF than the X2 and operates quicker as well. But the lenses are lacking in the NEX system though the Zeiss 24 1.8 is as close to the 24 Elmarit as you can get, it is just larger. Again, personal preference here. Do you want ultimate control and customization? Video capability (though the 7 overheats after a few minutes of HD video)? Tilt high res LCD and nice OLED EVF? Then the 7 may tick your buttons.

X2 compared to the Fuji X100 – THIS is the ultimate comparison (and I just updated the review with samples from each above). I did compare the X100 and X1 quite a while ago HERE and some of you preferred the X100 and some the X1. Well, the X2 is not much different than the X1 in regards to IQ and it is a little faster, just about on par with the X100 if not a but slower (the Fuji X100 firmware update sped up the AF quite a bit). BUT these two cameras do have much different looks to the images. The Fuji has the Fuji colors and “look” which is a little soft when wide open up to f/4 and after f/4 super sharpness and detail. But you will get those Fuji yellows and greens and blues as well as a cooler white balance when using Auto. The Leica has its own look which is nice and contrasty, great warm and rich color and that Leica look you get from their lenses. Some may prefer the Fuji look, others the Leica look. I do feel the X2 is the more attractive camera. I also feel the X2 is much more basic and simple and focuses on one thing…the photos. The X100 and X2 are neck and neck at high ISO. Now that I have shot both side by side, as for focus, the X100 and X2 are also neck and neck. Maybe the Fuji is a split millisecond faster but it’s close. What you choose comes down to preference. Do you want a made in Germany Leica X2 with warm colors and rich files (but slow in operation, poor LCD, no EVF and slower lens) or do you want the X100 which is $800 cheaper (with EVF/OVF, faster lens, video and better LCD)? Your choice! I choose BOTH :) Well, I actually did just that!

X2 compared to the X1 – Well if you are an X1 owner wondering if you should update to the X2..think about it. What would you like to see improved in your X1? If it is only IQ, then you won’t get much of that with the X2. The IQ seems about the same to me. If it is AF speed, you WILL get a boost and you will be able to AF in low light much easier. If it is high ISO, well, you will get that as well. You also do have the 6400 and 12,500 options though they are pretty noisy. How about the EVF? Will the size turn you off from using it or will it be a welcome addition to your shooting? If you crave what the X2 brings (new look, EVF, faster AF, 4 more Megapixels) then you will like the X2. BUT the used market for the X1 these days ranges from $1150-$1400 from what I have seen so you will lose some cash on that X1. If you are already happy with the X1 there may not be a real need to upgrade. BTW, you can see some extensive comparison images in my older X1 vs X100 post HERE!

The X2 catches the cat

-

High ISO of the Leica X1

Another improvement Leica has made is in high ISO shooting. The X1 was actually a great high ISO shooter and up to 3200 was really nice and usable for most things. If you read my X1 review you will see that ISO 3200 of the X1 beat ISO 1600 of the Olympus E-P2 at the time, and ISO 3200 looked very usable. The X2 now has the capability to go up to ISO 12,500 though it is not usable at this speed (in my opinion). Below see some higher ISO shots at night and also some crops. One thing I was happy with is that the X2 now has much faster AF at night. The X1 was very slow in this area, even unusable at times. The X2 is usable at night in regards to AF. No more waiting and hunting around like the X1 did.

The next 6 images were all shot at ISO 3200, what I feel the the highest usable ISO on the X2

So while the Leica X2 may not be noise free when shooting at ISO 3200 in low or no light, it keeps the color fidelity and the grain is not offensive at all. In fact, I really like shooting at ISO 3200 at night with this camera as the images are very usable and they still seem to have that Leica feel. I would not go out and use ISO 6400 or 12,500 (at night) as they start to get ugly so keep it at 3200 tops if you are night crawling and use 6400 in a pinch.

-

High ISO crops 

Below is a shot I snapped in a grocery store to check out how ISO would do in decent light. You will see the image and then the crops after it starting at ISO 800 going through to ISO 12,500. When in decent light it appears you could get away with using ISO 6400 if you had to, but then again, in decent light you wouldn’t need to.

ISO comparison to NEX-7 and OM-D

One thing I found odd is that at ISO 3200 in both sample shots from the X2, the one above of the bottles and the one below of the Polaroid (I tried three times, same results) show a blurred result. These are all from RAW and I did not add ANY Noise Reduction to any of the samples. It appears these three cameras are just about next and neck for indoor low light high ISO. These were taken in my office at 2AM, with only one light bulb going. It appears lighter than it really was.

You can clearly see each camera has a different color signature which is what helps to give each image from each camera its specific “look”. Noise wide, the X2 is about equal to the NEX-7 and Olympus OM-D, which is very good though not as good as the Fuji X-Pro 1 or possibly the Fuji X100. What is surprising is how well the OM-D E-M5 did here. Not bad at all!

JPEG vs RAW High ISO

Here is an out of camera JPEG shot in high contrast B&W mode, ISO 3200 – right from camera resized with 100% crop embedded – you must click them for larger views and this shot was taken AT NIGHT so there was no light, but the camera AF’d just fine.

and the same image but processed from the RAW file

-

Detail of the X2 files

It’s funny because I really am not getting razor sharp clinical results with the X2 but I think that is what makes the images look so pleasing. It is very sharp, but not “clinical, flat and digital” like I see with some cameras. The output of the X2 seems just about right. In other words, I like it. BTW, at f/2.8 it is sharp but not super sharp..very pleasing. By f/4 it is even sharper.

Click the images below for larger versions with full 100% crop embedded…

-

THIS is a sharp shot no doubt…f/4 will do it…

-

UPDATE! Want sharp? CLICK THIS shot to see the larger version and check out the detail in the 100% crop. This was wide open at 2.8!

-

The Leica X2 Pros and Cons – 15 Pros but 12 cons…

PROS

  • The design and look of  the chrome is sexy and gorgeous.
  • The packaging makes you feel like the money you spent was well worth it, lol.
  • The AF speed has improved from the X1 no question!
  • We can now use the external EVF on the X2
  • The color of the X2 images are really nice and beats almost all others in its class (in my opinion)
  • Overall image quality remains as it was with the X1 – sharp, crisp and Leica like
  • High ISO up to 3200 is really usable, 6400 if you need it!
  • AF speed has improved greatly in low light and it is accurate.
  • Build seems to have been beefed up a little, which is great.
  • Same fantastic 24 Elmarit 2.8 lens of the X1!
  • Nice leather strap is included in the box, just as with the X1.
  • Flash is re-designed and improved, no more accidental pop ups in your bag.
  • Dials are much stiffer now so no accidental changing of your aperture or shutter speed.
  • SIMPLE controls and basic operation make this a real photographers camera, just a little slow :)
  • Finally, this camera is SILENT if you turn off all electronic sounds

CONS

  • By todays standards, the AF is still slow
  • By todays standards, there should have been a built in EVF!
  • Expensive for a fixed lens camera at $1995. $800 more than a Fuji X100 which has a built in EVF and an F/2 lens built in but it’s a Leica.
  • EVF is LARGE and EXPENSIVE if you buy Leicas at $575.
  • ISO 12,500 is there for marketing as it is not really usable.
  • Forget AF tracking.
  • Lens aperture chatters as the camera is on, ala Fuji X-Pro 1
  • No real in body or lens Image Stabilization!
  • Can not close focus, no macro mode!
  • Same old low res LCD that is in the X1. Boo.
  • Slight barrel distortion when up close and wide open (watch your straight lines)
  • Manual focusing still sucks. Only good for setting it and forgetting it or Zone Focusing for street.

Out of camera JPEGs are sharp!

Just as with the X1, the X2 can output a nice sharp JPEG if you nail the focus. In some cases I actually preferred the JPEG output of the X2 over the RAW files. Check out the shot below, which was from a JPEG. I resized it to 1800 pixels wide and converted to B&W. Click it to check it out. Shot wide open at 2.8.

My final word on the Leica X2

It has now been close to three years since Leica released the X1 and in that time there have been many happy X1 owners as well as many frustrated X1 owners. The flaws of the original were easy to look past when it was released as there was not much else out there to compete against it. Today we have so many great mirrorless cameras to choose from, and mostly all come in at a lower price than the Leica X2. This means that Leica really had to step up their game if they wanted to sell mass amounts of this X2 camera. While the X2 is beautiful to look at and rewards your efforts with beautiful file quality I feel Leica should have concentrated on upping the game with a built in EVF, FAST AF and a fast responsive feel. Instead they added EVF capability by adding a hot shoe where you can add their $575 EVF, so it is NOT cheap.

BTW, they did not send me the EVF for review, (only the camera itself in a factory fresh box) so I used the old Olympus VF-2 and it worked throughout my time with the camera but one time the image in the LCD did scramble and I had to restart the camera. Does that mean I am saying you should use the VF-2? Well, I was using it but if anything were to go wrong with your X2 from using it, I am NOT responsible. :) The good thing is that the EVF swivels so it does give you more flexibility than a built in would, and it is a high quality EVF. The bad thing is that when attached it makes the camera look funky and it takes away from the beautiful design. It’s kind of a win/lose situation. You win by having access to a great EVF, but you lose by it being so damn ugly. Also, it does NOT lock down on the shoe like it did on the E-P3.

The X2 CAN do portraits as the lens has minimal distortion. 

Leica did speed up the AF of the X2 over the X1 and it now appears to be about as fast or slightly faster than the Fuji X100 (after the last FW update). It is slower than the Olympus E-M5 but faster than the Fuji X-Pro 1 and doesn’t really hunt like it used to do. Overall is it just about fast enough to not get frustrating. Also, when it locks, it locks. It never seemed to mis-focus in any of my shots which is awesome as that really irritates me when that happens (X-Pro 1, NEX-7).

The image quality of the X2 is pretty much just like the X1 and continues that Leica tradition of simple basic control and superb image quality. With the X2 around your neck you will be carrying a light, sleek, beautiful, and highly capable digital camera that will give you outstanding results. Just be sure you can be accustomed to shooting ONLY 35mm as the fantastic 24 Elmarit lens in this camera gives you a 35mm equivalent focal length, just like the X100 does. I can not stress enough how beautiful this camera is in its design and control execution. SIMPLE, as a camera should be.

When I sat down and really thought about it and looked over images I took with the X2, OM-D and NEX-7 my fave shots seemed to have come from the Leica X2. No, It is not perfect and yes it is pricey but it is simple and is indeed improved over the X1 in style, build, EVF, and speed. If you want a real made in Germany Leica and the M9 is out of your range, the X2 would and could fit the bill. It will give you everything a Leica is known for including the motivation you get from shooting something basic and simple like a Leica camera. Just know what you are getting before you buy and you will be happy. If you are used to a DSLR then you may not like the X2 as it doesn’t really do much of anything that a DSLR does well (telephoto, macro, FPS, video, etc).

Just so you know, you can still use the optical Viewfinder leica sells for $330 as well as the X1 grip…

…and here is the black X2 with the Leica EVF

-

A video showing the new $200 Leica X2 Ever Ready case – but there is a flaw!

The X2 will not shoot action very well, is not a wildlife camera, can’t and won’t do macro and is not the best choice for moving or running kids. The X2 is basically a “life” camera. A camera so sleek and small, so well made and beautiful and one that you can take with you everywhere to record your life, your family, your friends and everyday situations. You can shoot street with it if you set it to manual focus and use Zone Focusing (which the X2 works very well with) and it would be great for environmental portraits, landscape, still life and anything with bold color. I enjoyed the X2 far more than I enjoyed the Fuji X-Pro 1 but I am still unsure if I like it more than the Fuji X100.

I do know the X2 is a bit more polished than the X1 and possibly X100. It feels like a completed camera, just a slower than average one. You can’t argue with the results though and the strengths of the X2 are it’s IQ, accurate AF, AF at night capabilities, ability to use an EVF and even high ISO shooting. It’s also SMALL and sleek so I am overall happy with the X2 though as it gave me a fun time with frustration free shooting. I do wish the EVF were built in but there is always the X3. :) I can recommend this camera IF you don’t mind the cost and if you know you are not getting a speed demon. For the X2, it’s all about IQ and simple controls and use. I really enjoyed it. Thanks Leica for sending it out to me for review :)

Oh, I almost forgot! In the title of this review I asked “Can Leica still win us over with their charms”? Well, all I can say is that they DID in fact win me over as I am bought one for myself and for extended testing use. Yea it is slower than the current crop of cameras, yes I own the really really good OM-D and yes this Leica is pricey but if it has anything, it has charm and charm goes a long way for me in real world shooting. Cha Ching!

Where to buy the Leica X2

The X2 starts is available in all black or chrome and black. The list of dealers below are all dealers I have used extensively for buying gear and I can HIGHLY recommend them:

Ken Hansen – Legendary Leica dealer – No web site but you can e-mail him here to buy an X2 – [email protected]

B&H Photo – I have been buying from B&H for over 20 years. SUPERB shop, service and FAST shipping. You can pre-order the X2 in Chrome or Black.

AMAZON – We all know Amazon, they have the X2 for pre-order in Silver Chrome and Black as well.

POPFLASH PHOTO  - everyone knows Tony at Popflash and he has been a Leica dealer for YEARS. You can order the X2 is Silver or Black.

DALE PHOTO – Dale Photo is another top notch Leica dealer I have shopped with on many occasions. Here is the X2 in Silver and Black!

-

A few More Samples from the X2

EXIF is embedded for those who want it

ALL I ASK! HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page and Google +  page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

Feb 132012
 

 

From Leica 3A to X1 – a 51 Year Journey by John Shingleton

John’s Blog: http://therollingroad.blogspot.com/

Twelve months ago I purchased a Leica X-1.It was an impulse purchase and the latest step in a 51 year journey.

Way back in 1960 when I was just 14 my high school biology teacher started a school camera club.At the inaugural meeting he handed around his Leica-I believe it was a Leica 2–and prints from his 1930s travels in India and Burma.From the moment I handled that jewel of a camera and saw the pictures it produced I was hooked– I had to have a Leica.

It took me 7 years to achieve my ambition–a 30 year old Leica 3A –with F2.8 Elmar lens, lens hood, accesory brightline viewfinder and Leica neckstrap- purchased for $35 in1967. The thought of purchasing a 30 year old camera today other than as a collectable item seems absurd but progress was much slower then and a 3A was still regarded as a serious working /hobby camera although the Japanese SLRs ,particularly the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic ,were making rapid inroads into the market .

The 3A served me very well for about ten years before I stood it down and purchased one of the fashionable Japanese SLRs–an Olympus OM-2.I kept the 3A and still have it — complete with accesories–although I have not put a film through it for over 30 years.

In the years since I have taken tens of thousand of photos all over the world.I have won competitions and even a few useful prizes. I had a home darkroom, I have done black and white printing and even dabbled in Cibachrome ( reversal color) printing which was both difficult and expensive and even for reasons which I have long forgotten I home processed color slide film. I have owned a few Leicas and Leica lenses but my relationship with Leica was not monogomous. I owned an Olympus OM outfit and later a Canon EOS outfit .But I have never been a “photo gearhead” . In 52 years I have only owned 11 cameras. I used my M6 for 18 years .My interest has primarily been in taking photos not in collecting gear.

I particularly liked Leicas because of their precision almost watchlike feel , the fact that they were rangefinder cameras and above all for their magic lenses which had and I believe still do have a unique quality .

I was an early adopter of digital and acquired a film scanner in 1997 and I won an early Kodak digital camera in a photo competition in 2000 . My first serious digital photos were taken with a Leica Digilux 1 which I acquired in 2003 .This is an odd camera which takes surprisingly good photos even by today’s standards. I have recently revived it and the images have really surprised me .

In 2006 I purchased the then newly launched Canon G7 as a “point and shoot” camera and its capabilities and its compactness convinced me that compact was the way to go . My days of carrying around a big bag of gear were over . Besides anything else I was just getting too old for all that weight and airport security checks were becoming very difficult .

I also had a new passion -old Porsches — and I was restoring a 1971 911. I was “over”analogue photography so I sold most of my gear including my lovely Leica M6 outfit and ploughed the money into the Porsche restoration.

I kept a watching eye on the world of Leica but from a distance. I was not impressed with the M8 and that crop factor and it confirmed for me that I had made the right decision to sell my outfit when I had .

When the X-1 was announced I handled one at a Leica dealer in Sydney and came way seriously underwhelmed . I thought that it was overpriced ,very plasticky and lacked that Leica feel although I was impressed by its simple controls and what I had seen of its image quality in reviews although these same reviews were very luke warm about other aspects of the camera

I decided that I was quite happy with my little Canon but then in July 2010 I visited an old friend and serious Leica enthusiast at his home in Italy. He had an M9. It was gorgeous and I loved the feel of it and the solidity and the simplicity of the controls. It stirred old enthusiasms .

In January of last year I was in Auckland,NZ, when I saw the then newly announced black X-1 in the window of a camera dealer . My Leica M6 had been black. I could not afford an M9 and anyway “compact ” was now my mantra so I decided to set aside my misgivings and buy myself a black X-1 and to rejoin the Leica world . It was a rash, hasty decision.

My longstanding and expert Leica dealer in Adelaide, South Australia , found one for me immediately and it arrived in the post in the first week of February . It did not work out of the box . The silly pop up flash unit would not retract.To say that I was annoyed would be a major understatement. I had spent $2000 on this camera which I had major doubts about and it arrived in this ridiculous over the top packaging with a note signed by the quality control manager and it was defective. Shame on you Leica.

To cut a long story short Leica did not have the parts available to repair a black X-1 and black new cameras were on back order so I ended up with a replacement silver model after a few weeks . Not an auspicious start -particularly as I had already purchased a black Voigtlander optical viewfinder .

The first few weeks with the replacement camera were awful . I found the fixed focal length lens even more limiting than I had feared . The camera took beautiful images but it was slow and I was very nervous using it as I felt that it was fragile . I was beginning to think that maybe I had made a major mistake and then I started reading the Leica X-1 forums which were overwhelmingly negative and I was soon convinced that I had made a major mistake!

I seriously considered selling it on e-bay. In April I went for two weeks travelling in Vietnam and took it with me . I took some great photos on that trip but I was still struggling with it and undecided as to whether to keep it. Gradually I turned around . I took it on a trip to Europe in July and to the US and Canada in September and I came back with more great photos -some arguably as good as I have ever taken. It stayed. Now I love its strengths but still hate its defects. I still worry that it is fragile . But the lens/sensor combination is superb . The IQ is brilliant but it falls down in so many areas you really do have to be a mellow, understanding and committed Leica enthusiast to live with it and I do not believe that is who it was designed for .

Would I recommend the X-1? Not an academic question as I was stopped when I was using it on the street in Chicago in September by a man who said his daughter was graduating from college and wanted an X-1 as a graduation present -would I recommend it? I gave a highly qualified “yes”. I hope that he was not too confused.

So there you have my 51 year Leica journey .From Leica 3A to Leica X-1.

As for my X-1 photos I have always taken what interests me . I now put some of them up on my blog and what you see here is a small selection .The first two very neatly link the 3A and the X-1 . The first was taken in 1974 on the 3A on Kodak Tri-X film and home processed and shows my wife and daughter. The second is that daughter’s daughter taken with the X-1 in 2011. Three generations taken on two Leicas arguably three generations apart. The others are some of the output from the X-1in its first 12 months.

John Shingleton

http://therollingroad.blogspot.com/

From Steve: Want to share an article with the tens of thousands of readers who visit this site every day? Send an e-mail to me HERE and let me know your idea! My goal when I started this site was to hopefully one day have a community of passionate photographers who could share their stories, photos, techniques and inspirations and that goal is finally being accomplished thanks to all of the amazing readers here on this site. 

May 242011
 

Leica X1 vs Fuji X100 – Part 2

Full size image  Throwdown!

Ok guys, this will most likely be my last post on the X100 vs X1 thing, but I was going over images from yesterday and processing the RAW files and found the Fuji can easily equal, if not surpass the X1 when it comes to sharpness and detail. Now, I have said it a gazillion times, sharpness is not going to make or break your photo unless you need that sharpness for a detailed landscape, BUT just want to point this out for those who thought (including me) that the X100 would not be as good of a landscape camera.

I am going to present a few shots from each camera here in FULL SIZE. Meaning, if you click on the image you will see the full size, 12 MP image from each camera. These were processed using ACR in Photoshop CS5. All editing was done during the RAW conversion.

You will see that the Fuji is pretty damn good when shooting RAW, better than its JPEGS for sure. The following comparisons are not “side-by-side” shots but there are one or two shots that are the same.

1st, the Fuji Pics. Keep in mind these are all between 6-8MB each. I saved them as a level 10 JPEG after the conversion from RAW.

-

-

-

-

-

…and now a few from the X1, same thing. All from RAW, saved as a level 10 JPEG in CS5.

-

-

-

-

-

So what do YOU think? I think Leica should think long and hard about adding a built in VF/EVF to the X2, put on a faster lens (maybe even a 1.4 or 1.8 just to up the stakes), add video (my prediction is this is going to happen), and add 6400 ISO capability. Speed up the AF and put an aperture dial on the lens. Add in good manual focus control as well. So all of this while keeping it as small or smaller than the X100 and the X2 will easily be THE camera in this category to own. I’m drooling just thinking about it. On the other hand, if Leica releases and X2 down the road with another 2.8 lens, no VF and the AF is still slow then they may as well not even release it. I am hearing rumblings from within the Leica camp that they may be working on something totally different and unexpected, so we shall see. My guess is a 2012 release for an X2.

The good thing is, IQ wise, the nearly 2 year old X1 is still up there in overall quality. That means the X2 should be something special.

Oh, and a few people asked me if I thought something like a Fuji X100 or Leica X1 would give better image quality than something like a Canon 5D and 35L. Well, to be honest, I think they can. There is something to be said about a fixed lens camera combo where the sensor has been tuned to the lens. Of course these cameras will not offer you the speed or versatility of a huge DSLR setup, but you will get relief from your back aches and fantastic image quality that is tough to beat with a DSLR and lens. As always, just MY opinions but I would rather treck out with an X1 or X100 than a huge DSLR and 35mm lens.

Let the commenting begin!

 

I NEED YOUR HELP! YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THIS SITE TO KEEP IT GOING AND GROWING!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Also, the new forums are NOW OPEN on this site so get involved if you like! Thanks so much for visiting my site!

May 232011
 

My Leica X1 and Fuji X100 Comparison Shots

or “Fuji X100 vs Leica X1″

By Steve Huff

Just got back from my mini road trip today where I took along the Fuji X100 and Leica X1 so I could compare shooting them side by side. I wanted to write about the experience AND the image quality results of both out of camera JPEG and RAW conversions. First off, the light was harsh today so these were all taken between 9:30AM and 2PM, not the best light but still was able to get a feel for each camera and compare them.

What I will do here is post straight from camera JPEG images from each camera, as well as a few processed in RAW and a couple of FULL size samples from RAW. When I show JPEG output, each camera was set to the same color setting. If Velvia on the X100 it was Vivid on the X1. If it was standard on the X1, it was Provia on the X100. IN every comparison the same Aperture was used. For ISO, the base ISO of each camera was used for best image quality. ISO 100 for the X1 and 200 for the X100.

With the RAW comparisons, each shot was processed from RAW with NO ENHANCEMENTS AND NO PP.

NONE OF THE SHOTS HERE, even the out of camera JPEGS, HAVE ANY processing done to them. They are straight from camera.

I’m Loving the EVF of the X100…

While out today I found that the viewfinder of the X100 is a godsend. While framing images in the bright sun it was so much easier to do so with the OVF/EVF compared to the X1′s LCD. On the flip side, the X1 started up much quicker and was ready to shoot when I was. The X100 startup held me up a couple times (even with the fast card you must reformat EVERY TIME you put it in the camera to gain the fast start up speed) but all was good for what I was doing.

I did notice a difference in the output of the cameras though, and I think it will all come down to personal choice.

First, the Poll answers…

On Saturday I posted a side by side picture with a Poll and asked all of you to guess which image was from the Leica X1 and which was from the Fuji X100. The Poll was pretty evenly split and finally the top image broke away with the most votes, meaning that the majority thought the top was from the X1.

Well….

Here is the answer…

The top is the X100 image and the Bottom is the X1 image…

More than half of you were wrong here which goes to show that BOTH cameras are capable of fantastic output. To me, the X1 file has LESS distortion in my sons face. In the X100 file, he is suffering a bit more from the big nose syndrome, meaning the barrel distortion is blowing up his face a bit. The X1 is better in this regard without question.

The images above were shot RAW and exported from ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) untouched. Both are at F2.8 and both are sharp but you can see the different color and WB of each image. Personally, I prefer image #2. Someone in the comments pointed out that they thought it had more “soul” and I somewhat agree. I also dislike the distortion in #1.

Oh, as for the 2nd comparison this morning, the TOP image was shot with the X1 and as you guys noticed, my shadow gave it away!

I’ve shot the X1 MANY times and came away with loads of great shots. I’ve shot the X100 A TON over the past three weeks and also have gotten some nice shots.

What it comes down to for me is overall IQ in various situations, control, and usability/joy of use. So how did it go today shooting both? Very good. Each camera gave me good quality results though I must admit, after looking at images side by side, I am preferring the color of the Leica X1. Also, the Leica images are somewhat “crisper”…if that is the right word. BUT the X100 is really just as capable, especially with some PP as you will see later down in this article.

Instead of jabbering on and on, let me post some images so you can see what I mean…

1st – OUT OF CAMERA JPEGS

Many who are shooting these cameras are shooting JPEG, so which camera will give you the nicest out of camera JPEGS? See what you think.

Here is an image shot at f/4. The 1st one is the X100 out of camera JPEG and  the 2nd is from the X1.

YOU MUST CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO VIEW A LARGER VERSION OF EACH.

These are not full size as I will post crops below from RAW conversions. These 1st few sets are to give you an idea of color and rendering.

-

The following are #1 Fuji, #2 X1. In this 1st set of the dog, I DO see a more 3D pop from the Leica shot.

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Ok, so that was a ton of JPEG images! After looking through them at the larger sizes (You must click on the image to see the correct version) I do indeed prefer the X1 out of camera JPEG images. I’d go as far to say if your main concern with a camera is the image quality, the X1 wins due to  having less distortion and extra pop or crispness in the files.

Then again, I have to keep telling myself that the X100 has the ViewFinder, is cheaper, and has better high ISO capabilities. It also has HD video capability, which can be good to have at times. What if these two cams were the same price? $1200? Id have to go with the X1 just for the image quality being slightly better (to me), in JPEG mode at least.

JPEG output from these cameras is decent with the X1 winning in this area IMO.

Processed from RAW files

The next couple of samples were processed from RAW. No PP was done to these. This shot was at f/2.8

-

Full Size from RAW, shot at f/8

1st the Fuji X100- – Click image for full 12 Megapixel image

Now the X1

So which do you prefer? The two shots above were taken at f/8 and to me, when I view the full size version, the X100 is sharper and shows more detail in the trees at the top. At the same time, the X1 image seems a little more “lively” and less flat. Or is it just me?

But look at this one, two more full size images shot at f/5.6. What is going in with the Fuji on the left side?

-

So what about “Usability”?

After shooting both the X1 and X100 side by side I have to say it was a draw. I loved the Viewfinder of the X100. If the X1 had one, built in, like the X100′s EVF/OVF it would be game over for me. X1 would be my choice HANDS DOWN. As it is, the X100 was a joy to use mainly due to being able to frame with the EVF (I still prefer the EVF over the OVF) in the harsh AZ sunlight.

At times I had a hard time framing the X1 due to the LCD being washed out from the sun.

On the other hand, the X1 was always ready to roll and started up quick. The X100 took a few seconds to get ready to shoot, maybe 5-8 seconds. Unless you reformat the memory card every time you put it in the X100 you will get a slow start up. This seems like a bug that needs to be fixed with a Firmware update.

Usability wise, I loved the X1 for its no nonsense settings and straight forward menu (which I never needed to get into really) as well as the sleek design and light weight.

Focus speed was similar for both with the nod going to the X100 for AF speed, but not by much. I am using Firmware V2 on the X1 and while it seems a tiny but faster than before, the X100 seems a little quicker still.

Both cameras were fun to shoot and carry. Build wise, they are about equal. In my X100 review I mentioned the X100 was built slightly better but really, they are about equal. The X1 is one handsome camera in black and when staring at both side by side, I prefer the clean lines of the X1. I also love the X100 design though the X1 seems more “classy” and the X100 more “retro”.

Id be happy with either camera. The X100 has the f2 lens, better high ISO performance at 3200 (less grain, but smoother image), HD video, EVF/OVF, and manual aperture and exposure comp dial. All for $1199. The X1 has a sleeker design, faster operation, slight better IQ (IMO) and comes with a nicer leather strap :) $1999 but deals may be found here and there if you look around.

If you are looking for an X100 you can try B&H photo as they get stock from time to time. If you are looking for a Leica X1 (sexy in black) Leica dealer Ken Hanson has TWO in stock now. He sent me this one for this comparison, so thanks Ken! You can e-mail him HERE.

My final conclusion? YOU DECIDE! Look at the images, the color, the rendering and body style/features and price. I love both but am giving the IQ nod to the X1 and usability nod to the X100 due to the viewfinder.

Processed Images

The images presented in this article so far have been without post-processing. Below are three images from each camera, that have been converted from RAW and slight processing applied. They are in random order but each pic is stamped with the name of the camera that shot the image…click on them for the 1600 pixel wide much better versions.

So, do any of you see much difference in these processed pics?

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-


High ISO

I didn’t shoot too much high ISO but did see that at ISO 3200 the X1 has quite a bit more noise but the image is SHARP and retains all the detail. The X100 seems to use NR so the files are smoother and less noise. Here is one I processed to B&W. In real use, not much difference but the X1 has that crispness I sometimes see…

-

 

UPDATE: This comparison is CONTINUED HERE with 10 FULL size images processed from RAW files!

 

I NEED YOUR HELP! YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THIS SITE TO KEEP IT GOING AND GROWING!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Also, the new forums are NOW OPEN on this site so get involved if you like! Thanks so much for visiting my site!

May 232011
 

UPDATE: The TOP image was from the Leica X1. Bottom X100. Full comparison can be found HERE.

Happy Monday!

Im heading out to Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon AZ this morning to shoot the Leica X1 and Fuji X100 side by side to not only see the image quality differences, but to also see which one I prefer shooting with all day. I have a soft spot for the Leica X1 but also am really digging the X100 so I wanted to see the real deal between the two as so many have been talking about the 3D depth of the X1 and the flatness of the X100.

When I reviewed the X100 I did not have an X1 on hand, and now I do so this is going to be fun :)

I posted a sample and poll on Saturday of my son asking what camera you guys though took each photo, and the voting is pretty close! I will reveal which camera took which image either later on tonight or tomorrow morning with my full X1 and X100 side by side report.

Until then, here is one more comparison!

FULL SIZE OUT OF CAMERA IMAGES!!!

YOU MUST CLICK ON THESE TO SEE THE FULL SIZE IMAGES!

These were shot RAW, f/8, and exported from ACR without ANY change of settings or PP.

One of these came from the Leica X1 and one from the X100.

When you click on them they will open as one but in FULL size.

Instead of asking which one you think came from which camera, this time vote for the one you like best. It’s a crap image but was just taken to test detail, color and rendering at f/8 with each camera. I will have some better images later tonight or in the morning from each camera, along with my full comparison.

With that said, I think sometimes it is pointless to over-analyze things such as this. Obviously, both the X1 and X100 are fantastic cameras capable of high image quality and each one can inspire confidence and deliver the results. Which one you prefer is all up to what you want to use it for. For example, if you wanted a viewfinder and close up capabilities, the X10o would be a better choice. If you wanted that “Leica Look” that some of you see, and some do not, then the X1 is the only choice.

BRW, both cameras are easy to use and have similar AF speed (using the X1′s V2 firmware).

 

 

May 212011
 

UPDATE: The top image was from the X100, NOT the X1. The Bottom image was from the X1. The full comparison is HERE.

WEEKEND FUN POLL!

Hey everyone! It’s Saturday and I’ve been hanging around the house today doing some comparisons between the Leica X1 and Fuji X100 just so I could see once and for all which camera I prefer when shooting both side by side. I will be working on this for the next three days, and should have something up by Tuesday. For now, just for fun I decided to post one image along with a poll to see if you guys can guess which image was shot with the Leica X1. I may put one or two more up before Tuesday, just for fun.

The answer will be posted in my comparison this week.

Both images were shot at f2.8 and processed with default RAW settings in CS5. No PP.

YOU MUST CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO SEE THE LARGER 2000 PIXEL WIDE SIZE…

May 192011
 

USER REPORT: The Leica X1 Dynamic Range by George Sutton

The Leica X1 has a lot of limitations offset by outstanding strengths. I think it works best as a walk-around camera in a city. Color is exemplary. Another strength I have discovered is the camera’s range.

Recently I was in the Sainte-Chapelle chapel in Paris with its spectacular stained glass windows. Photographing inside the chapel poses the typical challenge of exposing windows while preserving any detail in the much darker room. To get the windows I underexposed the original shot, shown below, by 2/3 stop. The windows are in direct sun. In the raw photo, the windows were still a little overexposed but the the rest of the room was dark. In Photoshop I reduced the exposure of the raw file an additional 1 1/3 stops to get the windows right, dialed up the fill light to the max, then fine tuned it more with the tone curve.

The result is the second photo. Preserving that much detail in the otherwise dark shadows is truly amazing. Kudos to Leica.

CLICK ON THE IMAGES FOR MUCH LARGER VERSIONS

-

Feb 262011
 

I know, I know…another X1 post! With all of the excitement of the upcoming Fuji X100 I am preparing for the showdown between it and the camera it is taking aim at, the Leica X1.  I have high hopes for the Fuji X100 but as I sit here looking at the samples posted online so far I am not 100% convinced that the file quality will have the same “snap” as that of the X1. I have been shooting the X1 again for the past few days and while it is still painfully slow at times, the IQ just can not be denied. I’ve been taking the little black X1 with me almost everywhere, even though I have not shot anything really worthwhile in the past week. Even so, the snapshots I have taken all have a brilliance and “shine” to them and when viewed at 100% the detail is pretty damn good for the size of this camera. This is all due to the sensor and the way Leica designed the X1 around it.

If Leica can speed up the AF (Auto Focus) to compete with even the slowest of the Micro 4/3 cameras then the X1 will be a force to be reckoned with, even with the X100 hot on it’s heels! How cool would it be if Leica released the new X1 firmware just before the X100 hit the shelves and the AF speed equaled  the X100? Doubtful, but you never can tell. It does seem that if Leica could have improved the AF speed of the X1 they would have done it already so even I am starting to have doubts.

Even with its slow and sluggish AF the lure of the Leica pulls me back in again and again.

Here are some quick snaps I shot today with 100% crops included. Be sure to click on the image for a closer look. One thing they all have in common is the crispness, detail and brilliance that I have not seen in ANY other compact to date. I am not saying other compact/big sensor cameras are no good, just that none have equaled the flat out IQ of the X1. I wonder of the X100 will be able to provide this level of quality out of the camera?

All of the images below include 100% crops embedded in the image.

You must click on the image to see it in larger size for the full 100% crop.

Also, ALL of these were converted from RAW in ACR and everything you see is out of camera in regards to color, etc.

-

-

-

-

-

-

So the question is this: Can the Fuji X100 beat or equal the file/image quality of the Leica X1? It just might, and if so the Fuji will be a slam dunk winner. If the image quality is not as good as the X1 we all know it will be a faster camera. We will have to ask ourselves if it is better to pay less for a faster, slightly larger camera, or better to have the ultimate IQ, even if it is dog slow. Also, the Fuji is coming in at $800 LESS than the X1 with a built in VF so even if it does not match the Leica IQ it will still be a fantastic camera IMO.

I’ve said it again and again…Leica, IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, get the AF to where it should be with the X1. If you can not, and eventually release an X2 then give it a manual lens with aperture dial, fast AF, and a built in viewfinder.

Personally, I adore the quality of the X1. I adore the body for its style, it’s feel, it’s size and light weight. I think the X1 looks better than the X100 and if the X1 had the speed it could be my only camera if need be. Hopefully I will have an X100 in my hands within 2 weeks as I am buying one blind. If it lives up to the hype I think Fuji will sell LOADS and LOADS of the X100. Hell, I think they will sell loads and loads of them regardless. Classic design, classic feel, Fuji colors, Hybrid VF, F2 lens…so far so good.

I’m starting to get excited for its release….can you feel it?

The black X1 is gorgeous though and it feels SO good when strapped around you with the included Leather strap. It seems to fit flush against my body and I hardly notice it is even there :) I bought my black X1 from Ken Hansen. He has one or two more in stock if anyone is interested. Even with the X100 nearing, If the new X1 firmware comes out and speeds up the AF to a decent level I have a feeling the X1 will start selling out again! It is a Leica after all and for some of us, that red dot is hard to pass by.

More from the X1…just snaps…

-

-

-

This next one was shot back in 2009 when I first reviewed the X1. It says a lot that here I am in 2011 and I just bought myself the X1 even with all of these new cameras available.

This one was at ISO 1000, f/2.8, handheld inside a church with very low light. Look at the brilliance and look of the image when you click for a larger view. This is the X1 quality that I do not see in other small body cameras.

-

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT”S EASY TO HELP OUT!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Also, the new forums are NOW OPEN on this site so get involved if you like! Thanks so much for visiting my site!

Feb 222011
 

Lately I have been having fun with my posts and reviews by shooting the little fun cameras like the Micro 4/3 bodies, the Sony NEX-5, and little Ricoh GRDIII. All this time I have not been giving my true love in the camera world, Leica, as much attention as I used to. One camera that is in the same category as all of these small body/big sensor bodies is the Leica X1, which I have not shot in quite a while..AND I now have the “itch” to do just that. (my review of the X1 can be seen here)

Problem is, I no longer own an X1 so I can’t but I did spend about three hours last night looking over some X1 photos that I shot during the time when I did own the camera. What I saw with the X1 pictures put those that I shot with the NEX and M4/3 bodies to shame. Really. The X1 is really the KING of these types of cameras, though it has its limitations that we all know about.

The Leica X1 is hands down the winner for overall Image Quality and beauty in a compact camera body. The crispness of the files, the colors, the high ISO performance are all beautiful. Where the X1 falls is in the auto focus department which is VERY slow when compared to todays compact cameras. The X1 is the most expensive of the small body/big sensor cams but if you want a camera that has the beauty, feel, and prestige that IS Leica, along with the best IQ you can get in a compact, the X1 is THE one to get. Keep in mind I am talking about small body/big sensor cameras here. If you want the REAL KING of digital 35mm, and have the cash then you want THIS.

As for the X1, It doesn’t matter that it has a fixed lens, for me at least. Heck, when I shoot the NEX-5 I always use the 16mm prime lens. When I shoot the Olympus E-P2 it seems I always use the Panasonic 20 1.7 or Oly 17. I’m a prime kind of guy so the fact that the X1 has a fixed 24 Elmarit, giving it a classic 35mm equivalent is actually a bonus. I am NOT a fan of zoom lenses. Period. Give me a prime ANY DAY of the week. If I need to zoom, I will use my feet :) Prime lenses are just sharper and give better color and contrast.

Check out this out of camera JPEG from the X1. This was not from RAW but an OOC (out of camera) JPEG! Click on the image to see the real 100% crop and look at the detail the Leica lens pumps out…

-

How about a nice full size  out of camera file? Click on the image for the FULL size and check out the X1 detail

-

How about HIGH ISO? Even at ISO 3200 the files remain CRISP and detailed.

-

ISO 1600 is super crisp if exposed properly…

 

Damn, I’m tempted to sell off a camera or two to buy the X1 again. Really! I do know the AF speed is being improved in the upcoming firmware, but how much improvement there will be, I DO NOT know. The Fuji X100 is coming VERY soon and is poised to take on the Leica X1 by throwing in a viewfinder, faster AF, and also giving us that classic look that most Leica lovers LOVE! I guess I will wait for the X100 before I decide but something tells me it may not beat the X1 in the IQ department. I have yet to really see a small camera that can. This is where the X1 shines. It simply offers the best IQ in a small package that can go anywhere you go. C’mon Leica…let’s get this firmware released. If you can boost the AF speed I think there will be renewed interest in the X1!

The Leica X1 may not have video. It may have a low res LCD. The X1 also is no speed demon in any way. It’s not a sports camera, it’s not an action camera, yet it costs $1995.00.

What I like to call the X1 is a “Life Camera”. The one thing it does extremely well is record your life. Your memories. The images I have captured with the X1 seem to give me more smiles than those captured with the other small compact cameras. Hmmm. Maybe Leica DOES have some sort of magic going on in their factory :)

Here are some random shots from the Leica X1 that I may or may have not posted before. Either way I think they stand above the Micro 4/3 and NEX images I have posted recently. Enjoy! BTW, the Leica X1 is usually in stock at B&H Photo in ALL Black and the classic Grey. Dale Photo also has them in stock HERE. Of course Ken Hansen also has them and he can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]. Looks like Leica shipped out a bunch to their dealers recently!

The Ricoh GXR. Since posting this article a few hours ago I have had a few ask me about the Ricoh GXR that I really enjoyed (and purchased after testing) in comparison to the Leica X1. Well, this is a tough one. The GXR is up there with the best of the small body cameras with big sensors, meaning…it is just as good as the X1 in many ways, better in others but also worse in some ways! It has the same size APS-C sensor as the X1 and for the price of the X1 you can get the GXR body, the 28 f/2.5 module and the 50 f/2.5 module.

The main niggle I have with the GXR is the limited shutter speed in daylight. It maxes out at 1/1000s when you are shooting the lenses wide open. This makes shooting in daylight with shallow DOF problematic. Other than that, I did compare the two cameras HERE. I love them both and explain why in that article.

You know…I have also heard from a couple of sources this past week that Leica also has an ALL NEW camera they have been working on AND supposedly there are some prototypes floating around out there somewhere. I did some digging and rumor sites are claiming it is a full frame – rangefinder-less M9 style camera to be priced well under the M9. No rangefinder, more like an EVIL M. Hmmmm. Could be all BS and hot air but thought it was worth mentioning. You never know!

Enjoy and as always, click on any of the images below for a larger and much better view :)

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

UPDATE 2/23/11! I bought a Black X1 for myself…had to sell of some M4/3 gear but could not resist the charm and lure of the X1, plus I was able to get a deal from Ken Hansen. He has 1-2 more in stock if interested. Also bought the OVF for the X1 which is fantastic.

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT”S EASY TO HELP OUT!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Also, the new forums are NOW OPEN on this site so get involved if you like! Thanks so much for visiting my site!

Feb 172011
 

A mish-mosh of coolness

How cool is this?

Check this out! I recently found out that the little RICOH OVF (Optical View Funder), the GV-2, will work wonderfully on the E-P2 or E-Pl2 with the 14mm lens. The OVF is a 28mm VF so it is a perfect match and looks Sexy as can be! You can buy the little OVF at popflash.com and it runs under $170 so it is not exactly cheap but it is much smaller than the Oly EVF. The build and quality is superb. Amazon also sells it and Amazon ships it. They seem to charge a little more for it though.

-

Here is a little press release from a new site by Jorge Torralba

RangeFinderImages.com goes live! I am pleased to announce that RangeFinderImages.com (RFI) has gone live. The original designer and creator of rangefinderforum has taken the concept to the next level by creating one of the most advanced galleries catering to rangefinder photographers. There are a million and one photography forums but there is only one RFI. The photos search capabilities of the site are unmatched by any other except for their sister sites. The many years of interacting with other photographers on the net in forums and galleries has resulted in a custom developed software package to meet the requirements of most enthusiasts out there. Feel free to give them a try and begin sharing your work. Did I mention that it’s 100% free?

-

More Fuji X100 tests, but not by me…YET.

photo courtesy of quesabesde.com

Seems to be some testing going on in the Fuji X100 world. I’ve contacted Fuji and they told me I can’t get a hold of one until the final firmware so hopefully in the next 2-3 weeks. Until then, enjoy this little preview (although it is in Spanish).

X100 Preview with Samples!

-

THERE IS STILL ONE MORE LEICA M9 SPECIAL EDITION/35 SUMMICRON SET LEFT!

Looks like lensrentals.com still has the M9 special edition set that comes with the chrome 35 Summicron ASPH. Brown Ostrich Leather covering, chrome body, ostrich leather strap, sapphire glass LCD screen and only 500 sets made WORLDWIDE. Gorgeous limited edition set that is actually a deal in the world of Leica special editions. I’d buy it if I had the cash. But I wouldn’t be afraid to use it. If you want it, act fast! The last time I linked to the ones at B&H they sold both within hours! Check out the one left at lensrentals.com HERE.

-

Odd but interesting. A Telephoto for your Iphone?


Seems like photojojo has created a telephoto lens for your Iphone. Hmmm, seeems to me it would be hard to keep your phone in your pocket. I can see it now…”Is that an Iphone tele lens in your pocket or are you just happy to see me”? Check it out here!

-

The Leica X1 Firmware…where is it?

One of the site sponsors, Dale Photo has a shiny new Black X1 in stock but where is the new firmware Leica promised us months ago? I was told 1st quarter of 2011 so I expect it anytime in the next 2-3 weeks. Leica is always so slow with the updates but let’s hope they did improve the AF like they said they did. From what I have heard, it will be much faster. I am guessing they are doing this to answer to the newer cameras like the Fuji X100. That is one cool thing about Leica. They only release new models every 3-3 1/2 years for their major cameras. I do not expect an X2 until late 2012. Same goes for an M10. I am excited to see what the new firmware update will bring.

-

MORE CONTESTS AND GREAT PRIZES?

Was having a chat the other day with ~6, who kindly donated his M9 for the GREAT LEICA M9 CONTEST (winner announced March 1st 2011) and it appears we will be having more contests with some VERY cool prizes. Maybe not as cool as a signed M9 but I am talking some GREAT prizes. We are still talking about things so when I find out more I will announce it. We may have one starting right after the M9 winner is announced! Stay tuned!

Also, if you “like” my new facebook page for this website you are automatically entered to win one prize every month! Starting March 1st I will pick one facebook “fan” at random to win a small photo prize! The winner selection will be totally random and all you have to do is LIKE THIS PAGE to enter. You will be entered for every monthly give-away which will take place on the 1st of each month!

Be sure and LIKE the page by clicking here, then clicking LIKE if you want to enter :)

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
21