Oct 152014
 

The Leica X Edition Moncler – limited to 1,500 pieces

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PRESS RELEASE:

New York, New York (October 15th, 2014) — Leica Camera continues to celebrate 100 years of photography with the limited Leica X “Edition Moncler”. The new edition was designed in collaboration with Moncler and infuses both brand’s values of quality design and technicality. The aesthetically pleasing and highly technical camera pays homage to the French origins of Moncler with a premium leather trim in a three-color scheme of red, white, and blue. The silver version of the Leica X is appealing to both photographers and fashion forward camera users.

The exclusive Leica X ‘Edition Moncler’ is strictly limited to 1,500 units for the entire global market. The additional camera case was designed in accordance with Moncler’s world famous down jackets. The matching genuine leather camera strap bears the inscription, Leica & Moncler, highlighting the collaboration. The Leica X ‘Edition Moncler’ will be available from Leica Stores, Boutiques, and Moncler flagship stores, beginning October 2014.

This exclusive camera was first unveiled during the Frieze Art Fair in London at the opening of Fabien Baron’s exhibition, “Monuments”. The opening was hosted by Leica and Moncler at Sotheby’s on October 14th. Fabien Baron, Vanity Fair’s “most sought-after creative director in the world”, highlights the exemplary collaboration between Leica and Moncler with his exhibition. Baron’s photographs, captured with the Leica S medium-format camera system, show the spectacular ice and snow-bedecked landscapes of Greenland and express the fascination of nature with which Moncler is deeply involved.

The technical specifications of the Leica X ‘Edition Moncler’ are identical to those of the standard production model of the new Leica X camera. The camera features a professional APS-C-format CMOS sensor with 16.5 megapixels (effective 16.2 megapixels) with a Summilux 23 mm f/1.7 ASPH. lens, increasing creative freedom and guaranteeing exceptionally brilliant pictures.

It also offers a wide range of camera functions, an intuitively simple handling concept and the iconic, premium attributes of Leica product design. The Leica X provides everything an amateur or professional photographer needs for commercial, small business or family use.

About Moncler

Moncler was founded at Monestier-de-Clermont, Grenoble, France, in 1952 and is currently headquartered in Italy. Over the years the brand has combined style with constant technological research assisted by experts in activities linked to the world of the mountain. The Moncler outerwear collections marry the extreme demands of nature with those of city life. In 2003 Remo Ruffini took over the company, of which he is currently Chairman and CEO. Moncler manufactures and directly distributes the Moncler clothing and accessories collections Moncler Gamme Rouge, Moncler Gamme Bleu, Moncler Grenoble and Moncler Enfant through its boutiques and in exclusive international department stores and multi-brand outlet

Oct 142014
 

Use any strap on your Leica T! New T Strap Lugs…

Match Technical just released a couple of new items for the Leica T. First up is the new T Strap Lugs. As T owners know, the T comes with a proprietary system for connecting straps..only Leica straps. Many are not fans of the rubber Leica straps for the T and they have had no way to use other straps on their beloved camera..until now.

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Using these you just snap these into the camera and bingo, use any strap! You can order them at Leica Store Miami.

Match Technical also designed and released a new Thumbs Up for the T.

You can click HERE to see it and read more about it. Looks pretty slick!

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I have not tried or tested either of these as they are brand new but I have had experience with Match Technical and they have always been excellent. They have a knack for finding solutions to little issues with certain cameras and their solutions always seem to work so well.

Oct 132014
 

Trying out the Leica M240…once again.

By Dan Bar

For a long time I did not like the new M 240. As I wrote once before,  I did not like the colors and I know I was not the only one. I thought the rear buttons where too close to each other . When i first used it a few months ago my fingers ( I have long slim fingers) kept pushing the wrong ones . Whenever i wanted to look at the pics i just shot, I found myself activating the LV button instead.

But than I read what steve said about the camera, and I spoke with Thorsten Overgaard who said he only uses the M, not even the Leica MM anymore. I certainly appreciate these two photographers so I decided to try the M again.

Now maybe Leica heard the color complaint and changed something about the sensor (From Steve: Nothing was changed with the sensor) as all of a sudden the colors seemed much better to me. They lost their red yellow look I did not like before.
The rear LCD is much better now, and the shutter sound seems quieter (From Steve: nothing was changed with the LCD or the Shutter since the M 240 was released) . I still think the rear buttons are too small and too close to each other but I sure like the camera now and its fantastic capabilities.

Here are a few samples all taken with the 35 Summilux ASPH.

Danny

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Oct 122014
 

A new Leica M Monochrom and Special Artist Edition soon?

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It appears Leica has been working on a new Monochrom camera based on the M 240 (as I hinted at long ago). Gone will be the current monochrome and in its place the new version which will be like an M 240/M-P but with its sensor receiving the B&W treatment just as the M9 did for the current Monochrom camera. It will give a different look just as the M 240 gives a different look over the M9, and IMO, it will be better with a higher Dynamic Range as well as giving better high ISO performance. My guess? ISO 25,000 max. Just a guess of course. :)

So when will this new Monochrom hit the streets? NO idea, as for now it is just really rumors as nothing is official yet but somehow info has leaked (as it always seems to do).

The other big news/rumor is that there will be a full on raw brass M 240 “Lenny Kravitz” special edition. Not sure I get this one at all but hey, some may enjoy it. Usually if there is a celebs name on it, expect to pay more and being unique it will end up being a limited run priced higher than any standard M 240 or M-P. I will predict it is nothing more than cosmetics as it will have the same sensor as the M 240 and M-P. Nothing is confirmed as to it being a “Lenny Kravitz” edition but that is the word on the street (Lenny is an avid Leica shooter).

I am loving my silver chrome Monochrom which is already a classic. Will be interesting to see when this new version arrives but we all knew it was only a matter of time.

As soon as more details and news or release info hits I will share it here. Seeing that I am not a rumor site though, you may want to check LeicaRumors.com to see if they have more info.

Steve

 

Oct 072014
 

The Classic Leica 5cm Elmar f/3.5 Collapsable Lens on the Monochrom

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Hello to all! Happy Tuesday! It is 9 AM, I am sitting down at my desk to write this article with my morning coffee and a cookie. Life is good. Today I want to share my experience with an old classic lens. The gorgeous and TINY collapsible Leica Elmar 5cm f/3.5 Lens (50mm f/3.5). Yes, it is old, it is slow in aperture, but it is a beauty for shooting in decent light, especially with the Monochrom, which I absolutely adore. So why do I adore the Monochrom when it is just a black and white sensor camera? I mean, any camera can shoot in B&W, right?

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Yes. You can also convert using the pricey software solutions. Even so, I find there is nothing quite like using the Monochrom, or the quality I get from it when it comes to tonality, detail and overall look of the files. I also love using a rangefinder and since this one is based on the M9 body with a CCD sensor, it has a different look than most CMOS sensors made today. I especially like the fact that it is so simple. When using it you know what you are going to get. No color issues, no color casts, any lens can be used without issues and you do not have to fiddle with White balance or worry so much about high ISO as this guy shoots up to 10k with ease.

But today I want to talk briefly about a VERY classic lens. The Leitz 5CM f/3.5 Elmar. It is chrome and looks stunning on the Monochrom. It is tiny and weighs next to nothing. It is built and made to Leica standards and my copy that I found locally for $200 looks like it just rolled off the assembly line.

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My lens was made somewhere around the 1940’s but this lens was made through 1961. Even though my lens is more than 60 years old, it appears and functions as brand new. I bought it mainly just to have it, and seeing that it was so affordable I could not pass it up. I never thought it would get much use but I took it to Las Vegas with me last weekend when meeting up with some great guys from Germany at CosySpeed testing out some cool products.

I decided to take a 30 minute stroll around the strip to see who and what I could photograph. I found many people staring at the camera, some asking me if it was a film camera and others just saying “cool camera”! While most were shooting with iPhones, iPads and even quite a few Sony NEX cameras, no one was shooting with a Chrome Leica Monochrom with this classic lens attached :)

The lens will render in a classic way as it should for being a 60+ year old lens. 

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Being limited to f/3.5 Aperture scared me as I am used to shooting wide open at f/1.4 or f/2 most of the time. I realized that I may have a large DOF but hey, the old masters shot with lenses like this if not this exact lens for a while. I am nowhere NEAR as good as those guys..I am not even a pimple on their chin..but to use a lens that some of them used felt good and I knew the limitations and I accepted them. After I thought more about it I realized there were no real limitations and in fact, it should be easier to shoot with a lens like this as focusing would be made easier with a larger depth of field!

So away I went, walking, smiling, interacting, laughing and observing…

When you walk in Vegas be prepared for many who are only out to have a GREAT time..for many this is a break from stress, work, and their hectic lives so most are friendly and will be happy to let you snap their image..

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It was easy to use and shoot with this classic lens and I am pretty quick with a rangefinder and manual focus. I usually prefer to do more “street portraits” than “street shooting”. I find most street shots that people post online are usually quick sneaky grabs of people and many of them are not so good. I prefer some form of interaction with these people, some form of eye contact. A few words, or even a nod and smile. If they are receptive then I take a shot. Sometimes they are not and I still grab a shot but its all part of the experience of being immersed in the action…

This is one of the guys who pass out the cards for female strippers and escorts who come to your room..they usually hate their photo being taken, but this guy just gave me an odd look when I nodded and asked for a photo. He was probably wondering what I was using to snap the shot. 

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While this Elmar will not be a favorite of mine, it will be pulled out from time to time when I want to feel nostalgic and classic :) It’s a beautiful lens and if you find a mint copy for a good price SNAG IT! I find it worth it to have it in my collection for  the price I paid of $200.

A few more images below using this lens, at wide open at 3.5:

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Oct 062014
 

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The Leica X Typ 113  Review in under 3500 words. Gorgeous IQ, but with a flaw.

by Steve Huff

When I found out that Leica created a new “X” camera with a Summilux lens and a faster aperture of F/1.7 I was VERY happy. FINALLY! Leica created the X many of us have wanted…or did they? With all new stylish looks, a larger size using the X-Vario body, and a very GORGEOUS brown and silver color along with the stealthy black Leica has left out the built in EVF that 90% of us have been begging for. Why oh why? If an EVF was put in this camera it would have flown off the shelves!

Since the X was announced I have had no less than 100 e-mails telling me something like this:

“Steve! If the new X had an integrated EVF I would have pre-ordered instantly”!!

This also happened with the X2 to some extent but not like this. See, the X2 did not sell as well as the X1 due to the fact that it was so much like the X1. Same body, same lens, same everything besides a new sensor that at the time helped with high ISO. The X1 sold VERY well, it flew off of the shelves because it was the 1st of its kind, at the time. The X2 did not do as well as the X1 sales wise and Leica assumed it was because it did not have a zoom lens, so they made the X-Vario with a slow slow aperture zoom. The Vario sold even less than the X2. Ugg.

So this time, here in 2014, Leica decided to give us Leica fans (almost) what they wanted! An X camera with a FAST fixed Summilux lens. Usually a Summilux is an f/1.4 design but on the X it is (supposedly) an f/1.7 design. But before I get into the lens, let us get back to the missing EVF, that so many cameras today have.

I think I know why Leica did NOT include it (intreated EVF) in the new X, and in my opinion it is for a couple of reasons. Mainly, I think and would guess that they used the X Vario shells that did not sell to make the new X. The X-Vario did not have a built-in EVF so this one could not as well. It also seems they do not have the know how to do it as none of their German-made non Panasonic cameras have an EVF built-in. It could also be that they just want to milk us for more money so we buy the external $600 EVF that kills the beauty of the X camera (IN MY OPINION).

Who knows the true story but I was willing to overlook the EVF issue and just enjoy the camera, because it is one hell of a beautiful looking camera.

But is that beauty only skin deep?

The X look is here in full effect! I shot this at night as I was flying high in the sky in Las Vegas. I love the crisp look and vibrant colors. ISO 1,000, and this one was shot wide open as the subject was very far away, allowing the f /1.7 aperture to be used.

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With the excitement of the new faster Summilux lens I was ready to try it out and take some close up portraits just to see how nice the Bokeh would be when shot at f/1.7. Finally, we can get shallow DOF with an X! YES!

With a 23mm lens giving a 35mm equivalent this camera will still not be capable of extreme Bokeh effects because with the wide-angle lens (23mm) it is tough to get a very shallow DOF unless you shoot up close to your subject. No biggie right? I mean, how much shallow DOF do you need? Shooting this lens/camera up close at 1.7 would and should provide plenty of shallow DOF if that is what you are looking for. Better yet, it will open up to allow more light in for when you are in low light. Well, this is what I thought anyway.

First off, The X has the same 16.2 MP APS-C sensor as the X2 and X-Vario. Nothing new. It is basically an X-Vario with a new faster Summilux prime. Period. Basically the same AF performance, same IQ, same color signature, etc. So there is no need for me to re-hash the IQ performance. You can see that in my X2 and X-Vario reviews.

So off I go to start shooting the new X and I immediately see the same beautiful image quality that I was able to squeeze out of the X2 and Vario but one  thing was frustrating me…

This camera will NOT let you shoot at f/1.7 much of the time, unless your subject is far away! Well, FOUR FEET away.

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Frustration was kicking in as I was manually setting the aperture to f/1.7 using the MANUAL dials yet when I went to shoot an image the camera would change the aperture electronically to 2.5 or 2.8, even when the dial said 1.7! I thought it was a glitch, a firmware issue… but nope, I soon found out that this was done purposely by Leica!

What has been said is that this lens is not so good at close focus wide open when it does to image quality..meaning, the IQ suffers when shooting close wide open. So if you try to shoot wide open, for a head and shoulders portrait for example, you will not be able to. You lose that extra shallow DOF ability and what you get is VERY similar to what you would get from an X2. In fact, for 90% of my use the camera always went to f/2.5 or f/2.8. Why would I want to shoot a landscape at f/1.7? Close to mid focus distance will get you f/2.2 to f/2.8. Leica should have said this was a “Variable Aperture” lens as this is what it acts like I am sad to say.

Out of 100 images during my testing the camera shot around 4 or 5 at f/1.7  – the rest were between f/2.2 to f2.8. For me this negates the whole reason for the faster lens!! I mean, I may as well have been shooting with an X2! It is smaller, has no lens quirks and offers the same good looks and can be found for less money.

For me, if a lens is advertised as an f/1.7 lens it should shoot at f/1.7 when you want it to, not when IT wants to. No Leica should override your manual settings, period.

You need to be at around 4 feet from your subject to use f/1.7. Before that it works like a sliding scale from 1.7 at four feet down to 2.8 at its minimum focus distance. It will give you f/2, f/2.2 and f/2.5 depending on how close you are. 

Leica X – set for f/1.7 and camera shot it a 2.2 – self-reflection

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That X Image Quality..so beautiful!

As always with the X series, what struck me was the image quality. I love it. The crispness, the colors, the sharpness across the frame. Same as the X2 and Vario 100%. It is nice, I will give it that. The camera looks fantastic around you or when pulling it out of your bag and  it delivers gorgeous image quality in good light and good IQ in semi low light. It starts to fall apart in real low light and the focus starts to hunt some. Speed wise, it is pretty good considering this is a Leica :) With each release Leica seems to improve the AF ever so slightly.

Take a look at my X2 review HERE and my Vario review HERE to see the similarities in IQ. 

This is the DOF you can expect at f/2.8

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Basically though, this camera is pretty much an X2 in a Vario body and/or a Vario with a 23mm fixed prime lens. I have written extensively about those two cameras and to just write more of the same would be silly. This new X has the Vario body with an X2 and Vario sensor. Leica have done away with the small X1 and X2 size bodies and from now on will produce the X in this larger size, which is more like an M4 when it comes to size.

Truth be told, without a built-in EVF, it is not very inspiring to shoot. I had my A7s, Leica MM and this X with me for a Las Vegas weekend and using the X was odd compared to the other two cameras. I was constantly holding it out looking like an amateur or tourist and for me, this goes against the whole Leica philosophy!

Leica cameras have always had a viewfinder (in the past, the golden years) and these days, even with thousands asking for an X with a Summilux lens and built-in EVF they cripple it without an EVF and even cripple the lens by not allowing us to use it wide open in most scenarios! As I said, a bit odd but Leica has always been a bit odd, a bit quirky and a bit “we do it how we want, deal with it”.

While it retains the beautiful design, build and gorgeous IQ, it is less versatile than something like the Sony RX1. The RX1 is smaller, is full frame, will focus closer and has a magical Zeiss 35 f/2 lens built-in. The Sony also left out the EVF but I have a feeling that if and when an RX2 arrives it just night have an EVF. I sure hope so. The RX1 delivers more in low light with as much shallow DOF as you could want and while it does not have the brilliant color and crispness of the X files, it has its own unique full frame quality and look that is very desirable.

Many have asked me this question and NO, the new X typ 113 is in no way a Sony RX1 killer. Not at all. The X is a camera for those who want a beautiful camera to look at and use during decent light without expecting too much in the way of shallow DOF or high ISO abilities. At ISO 3200 it starts to get noisy and the AF lacks in these low light scenarios as well. This is not a low light camera even with the new lens. When I say low light I mean night-time indoors, or even evening indoors. This will not be a camera for those low light moody shots in a bar, for musicians on a lowly lit stage or even  on the street once the light goes down. Instead, the X excels in decent light where it can show off the amazing color and snap it has to the files that no other camera has.

It’s a strange thing really…

I love the camera for its design and image quality in most situations but I dislike that it has been crippled with the aperture as well as having to buy an expensive add on EVF that kills the looks and design (as well as making it harder to put into a bag). So for me, I will not be purchasing an X but I can understand how some will want to. Many of you may not have interest in shallow DOF or low light high ISO work. For you, this camera is a treat. It is smaller than the Vario due to the smaller lens and it feels really nice in the hand (unlike the vario which was odd with the long lens) and as I have said many times already, the IQ is fantastic with that Leica feel and look.

Click the image below to see them larger and see what I mean about the crisp Look.

The 1st one was shot at 1.7 but the camera gave me f/2.5, ISO 500

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 A reflection shot  – this one was shot at f/9

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Below at f/11. Good light, stopped down..nice looking files. Look at the red color how rich and distinct it looks. 

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So who will want this camera? X or T?

If you have been wanting a German-made Leica that has the beautiful looks of an M with the image quality of the X and you do not mind the aperture issue when shooting closer subjects OR the fact that the high ISO in low light is not as good as other competing cameras then I suspect you could be extremely happy with the X.

FULL SIZE SAMPLES:

Below are two full size samples from the new X. The first one is full light at f/2.8, ISO 100 and the second in actually quite good light, indoors with dull open doors and windows allowing light to flood in, yet the camera needed ISO 1600 at f/2.8. Click them for full size.

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FOCUS:

The AF is decent, and I had no issues with focus, at all. Engaging manual focus is easy, just twist the lens out of AF mode and away you go. There is even a distance scale on the lens for manual focus use that seemed to work well. Also, The LCD will show you the expanded magnified view so you can easily nail it, but for me, this method of focusing is slow. AF works just fine.

Nothing else gives the unique IQ of the X Series of cameras, but the T does since it shares the same sensor. I love the Leica T and the fact that M lenses can be used on it. It provides the X IQ but with a choice of lenses and in a more modern styled unibody. You can read my full T review HERE. The T will set you back more than the X because it is $1900 for the body only, and lenses are NOT cheap. The EVF for the X or the T will set you back $600. Yes, $600 for a wart that sits on top of the camera, IMO, destroying the looks of the X but with the T it seems to fit. The X is classic looking Leica, the T is modern-day Leica.

Again, set to f/1.7 but camera decided to shoot it at f/2.5. B&W High Contrast out of camera JPEG

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ISO 3200. If you click it you can see the camera starts to lose some DR at higher ISO, as well as color changes but still looks very nice and is 100% usable.

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Set for f/1.7 but camera gave me f/2.8 – ISO 1000  – put of camera B&W JPEG

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My final word on the Leica X with 23 f/1.7 Lens

I have been seeing a sort of backlash against Leica from new early owners of the X camera who are a bit upset at the fact that this camera will not let you shoot with the aperture set to f/1.7, as advertised, in many and most situations. If you want to shoot a head and shoulders portrait at 1.7, you can’t. If you want to shoot up close for a Bokeh effect at 1.7, forget it. Many have e-mailed ME complaining about it as if I were Leica and as soon as those emails started coming in I knew there would be more to come.

Leica probably could fix the issue with firmware but I am not sure they will as they chose to cripple the lens for a reason, supposedly that reason is due to the fact that the lens close focus wide open performance is below the quality levels they want to see. They do not want images online showing softness when wide open so to fix this they set the camera to automatically change the aperture if shooting up close wide open. Yet they advertise it as the new X with a Summilux f/1.7 lens even though you need to be around four feet from your subject or more to use the lens at f/1.7. Leica does not advertise this in their marketing blurbs, they just advertise it as an f/1.7 lens:

“The extremely fast initial aperture of its Leica-Summilux 35 mm f/1.7 ASPH. lens creates an exceptionally beautiful bokeh, as a result, the exploration of the creative possibilities of selective focus is fascinating and particularly rewarding with the Leica X. The lens is almost completely insensitive to flare and ghosting affects. And all this is possible without an extra lens hood. It delivers bright, clear, and incredibly sharp photos – from infinity to a close-focus distance of only 0.2 metres. As well the CMOS sensor of the Leica X fulfills what its APS-C format promises: outstanding photos with exceptional colour fidelity and the finest rendition of details – even in unfavorable light.”

Odd.

With that said, if you are up close, just like with the X2, you can shoot at f/2.8 and still get a shallow DOF, but you have to be CLOSE. The bag was my subject.

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For some this will not be a deal breaker, for others it will. Add to this the fact that they once again ignored the option of an integrated EVF and we have more who will not buy this camera. Then we have the same old sensor from the X2 and Vario, with no real enhancements to low light performance. Some are saying this is an old sensor in a snazzy new body.

The fact is that the new X CAN AND DOES deliver in image quality, giving that unique X look that other cameras do not give you. Even at f/2.8 you can still get some shallow DOF when shooting up close (as shown above) but still not as much as we expected to get at f/1.7. It is a gorgeous camera made to Leica standards and is like owning an X Vario body with a faster fixed prime lens. If the X-Vario was something you lusted after but with a smaller and faster prime, here you go. Just be aware that in many situations you will not be able to shoot wide open. Also keep in mind that this is still not a night-time or very low light camera. It is still at its best with good light.

The Leica X comes in at $2295, not as much as I thought considering the X2 came in at $1995 with the slower lens and smaller more compact body. At this price point there are many options out there from Sony, Fuji, and others. For example, the new X100T looks fantastic and comes in at $1295. It also has an APS-C sensor, and an f/2 35mm equivalent lens with a classic RF styled body including an integrated and super nice hybrid EVF/VF. It is a proven design that many adore. The Leica X has easy to navigate menus and is simple to set up and operate. That is one thing Leica excels at..simplicity…but are they trying to be too many things at one time?

I feel Leica should stop trying to be so many things for so many people. I believe they should offer just the M and T series but make another T with a built in EVF. Then we have an APS-C modern Leica and the classic full frame M series (both the MM and M versions). Both interchangeable lens cameras, and systems they could focus on 100%. I personally feel they should just drop the rest along with the Panasonic clones. Of course this will not happen but it seems that Leica may be losing sight of who they once were and what they need to offer to those who love Leica and what they stand for. With a C, X, M, T, D-Lux and V-Lux it just seems to be to much IMO.

Do you want the new X? The questions to ask yourself is: “Do I want a real German made Leica”? “Would I mind the negatives of this camera”?

$2295 is not cheap. It is a lot of money. For me, I was  bit let down due to the fact that when shooting I had to hold out the camera like a  tourist and in most cases, unless focusing close, the images lacked pop (for example, street shots). No internal EVF takes the excitement of the X down for me, as does the lens issue but at the end of the day I will always love that X IQ. It’s a tough call but one thing that can not be discounted is the IQ. It is superb. It is pure Leica X, and for that, for many, will be enough.

Steve

Below is my 1st look video on the Leica X before I discovered the Aperture issue:

WHERE TO BUY?

You can buy the Leica X from the 100% trusted and recommended dealers below:

Ken Hansen – email him at [email protected] (tell him I sent you!)

PopFlash.com

The Pro Shop

Amazon

B&H Photo

Leica Store Miami

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Oct 022014
 

One year with the Sony A7r

By Pascal Jappy

Website http://dearsusan.net

It’s been just over one year since my A7r was delivered to my door and few of my cameras had been so intensely anticipated as this one. I vividly remember watching Steve’s Memphis images, particularly those made with the ZM35/2, Voigtlander 35/1.2 and crazy OTUS 55 lenses and mopping up the drool from my keyboard.

A long-time lover of the Mamiya 7 camera, I had never really been able to match the usability and image quality of that camera with any of the – too numerous – digital cameras owned since turning my back to film in the early days, not even my technically excellent D800e. But this Sony certainly felt like a potential candidate with its exciting mix of size, resolution, dynamic range and je ne sais quoi in pixel level fluidity.

So has it lived up to the Mega Mamiya ?

Mostly, yes.

For anyone following the “f/8 and be there” motto, being there has certainly never been easier than with this small, yet robust camera. It’s been with me in the freezing Lapland winter, hot Mediterranean summer and torrential rain that afflicted my neck of the wood in between. It has always delivered the goods in spades and, although a friend’s sample died on him in Greenland, mine has been blessed with excellent reliability.

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One year later, with several new cameras on the market, there still isn’t one I’d want to trade it in for. And the reason I’m writing this so long after the release of this camera is that its price has dropped significantly and will continue to do so with the introduction of its successors in the near future. So, to me, it has become the bargain of a lifetime for many to step into a world of affordable ultra-high quality. Yes, its successors may have more pixels, but not enough to discard this pocket monster. After all, the rumoured 46Mpix successor only offers a negligible 13% increase in resolution on each axis …

So why “mostly” ?

Are you familiar with Guns n Roses’ November Rain video? Well, if you’ll excuse the musical metaphor, my (really, really) beautiful A7r bride snores and sometimes makes me feel like I too “need some time on my own” …

But since the beauty far outweighs the beast, let me get the snoring out-of-the-way first and elaborate on the goodness after that.

Wakey, wakey !
So you’re walking down the street in KL, a monkey is looking eagerly at a lady’s ice cream. You switch your A7r on with the intuition that something funny is going to happen. And it does. And the A7r is still asleep. And the monkey eats the ice cream, particularly relishing the best chocolatey bit down the bottom of the cone. But the A7r is still gathering its wits. The monkey backflips its way to the rooftop, the sun sets, you have a delicious indian curry and, suddenly, the A7r has come to life.

OK, possibly a slight exaggeration here, but you get my angry drift. There are few slower cameras on the market anywhere near this price point. And as a street photography tool, it will mess with your Zen like little else can.

Happily there’s a way around this inconvenience. In the 2nd screen of the toolbox camera menu, you can set the Pwr Save Start Time to 10 seconds and leave the camera on. It takes a full press on the shutter button to wake the camera on so there’s little risk you’ll do it by accident. And doing so normally brings the camera back to life in a much more manageable 1.5s (compared to the sluggish 2-4 seconds from OFF). Since battery life is fairly good, that’s one big issue partly taken care of.

Marshmallow autofocus
My only AF lens on this camera is the (fantastic) Zeiss/Sony Sonnar FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA. Aside from the typically poor construction of the Zeiss lens cap, this is an exceptional performer and could easily be my only lens.

Bu however wonderful, it is let down by the unpredictable autofocus on the A7r.
AF isn’t the fastest, but isn’t slow either. It’s also very accurate when it focuses.
It’s main drawback is the occasional inability to focus at all.

Forget taking AF photographs of clouds. You’ll have to find a distant tall building or mountain range to approximate infinity and recompose your shot once focus has locked.

AF really needs subjects with high edge contrast to function properly. And when it does, near-far situations are a constant worry, the camera always making the strange decision of focusing on the background. The example below of my daughter in the car is very typical.

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That being said, manual focusing is – by a wide margin – the best I have ever experienced on a digital camera. Focus peaking works brilliantly and offers the certainty of 0% miss when combined with the elegant digital zoom system. Given how excellently this camera deals with most third-party lenses, this truly makes up for the occasional inadequacies of the  AF.

Noise
Handling noise seems inversely proportional to electronic noise, in this camera.
A lot has been written about the shutter noise, and there’s very little I can add, other than the camera can even scare you with a very loud noise when powering down.

How bad is it in real-life ? Well, if I’m out walking and making pictures for a few hours, I actually don’t notice and forget all about it. It’s loud, but actually rather pleasant, in a positive, clunky way.

After a long day, it does get tiring to the point that I resist making more pictures unless they really beg to be made. In a way, that’s a good thing, because restraint is always advised after a day’s shooting. But I doubt that Sony intended that way and that noise is really something you could do without when you feel tired. That’s one of the only occasions the camera doesn’t feel like a close friend you want to take along everywhere.

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Churches, theatres and ceremonies when silence are expected are also obvious turn offs. A couple of years ago, I visited 20 churches in Venice to create a collection of photographs. That’s definitely not something I would like to attempt with this camera. Which is a shame considering how brilliantly it would handle the low light and tonal ranges found in these places.

Ergonomics
Mostly excellent. The size is right. Anything smaller would be pain to work with. The camera is light yet feels very robust. There is a – highly subjective but very real –  tactile pleasure to handling it.

And the EVF is so good and informative I would never want to go back to optical. Having fought the D800e to focus manual lenses using its abysmal live view, the EVF on this A7r is an absolute godsend. The artificial horizon is such a help with wide angles too. My percentage of frames requiring no cropping or rotation has increased dramatically thanks to this EVF.

Buttons and dials are firm and positive, although placement seems governed by some inexplicable alien logic or usage scenario.

Automatic white balance
The ease of bulk modification of white balance in editing software such as LightRoom or Capture One kind of makes this a non issue, but AWB is a bit flaky on the A7r. It often seems in a happy mood and makes everything appear a bit more golden than in real-life. That works well in most scenes but adds a slightly sickly mustardy tinge to others. Still, you can set 500 frames to auto-WB in a matter of seconds in any editing software, so no problems here.

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Now the good stuff. There’s no suspense as many others have reported on the superb image quality offered by this little gem. But let me qualify that from my personal point of view.

Sharp, yet organic look at pixel level
36Mpix is a lot. Probably enough for 99% of photographers in the world and certainly enough for me. Obviously, it makes it easy to crop severely to recompose or enlarge a portion of the frame yet retain enough information to obtain quality prints. Which, in turn, means I never need a lens longer than 135mm for any of my shots.

Enchanting forest

But, beyond the pixel count, it’s the actual pixel-level quality that I find lovely. At 100% – at base ISO – the quality is silky smooth with an organic feel to it that I don’t remember with my D800e. Images are fluid and look beautiful viewed at full scale, provided I have been careful to avoid shake. As mentioned above, focusing using peaking in the glorious EVF is easy and very efficient (another major strong point over the D800e). But shake is a very real issue and one of the areas where the greater mass of the D800e helps stabilize. Still, when proper technique is applied, the results are incredibly gorgeous to look at, time after time. When everything comes together, there is a real sense of achievement that is quite similar to browsing through a large format slide with a loupe or examining a great print.

Remarkable tolerance to older glass
Don’t ask me why, but some sensors seem to emphasize the technical blemishes in some of the older lenses we own and love. Edges can seem mushy and lifeless, for instance.

Not so with the A7r. It may be because of that apparent fluidity, or it may be something else, but the A7r just loves older glass and proves very tolerant to designs that would not work so well on other cameras.

Thanks to some kind friends, I’ve used this camera with a great variety of legacy lenses from Olympus, Nikon, Leica (M & R), Zeiss and Mamiya 645. Roughly 20 lenses in total. Not one has been bad ! Most have been superb.

Yes, I steered clear of the known offenders such as some wide-angle Biogons but, from the superb 19mm (Leica Elmarit-R) to the great 135mm (Leica Apo-Telyt-M) it’s been a bed of roses. Some variation in sharpness, some strong flaring, but definitely no deal-breaking nasties.

So, in keeping with the dropping price of the camera itself, it is quite possible to equip yourself with a slew of fantastic lenses that will never disappoint you.

In the cheap and lovely pantheon, I would state many from the Olympus stable (28, 50, 135) as well as most of the Leica-R offerings (50/2, 35-70/4, 90/2.8). The adapter adds a bit of visual heft to these lenses, but they are not overly large, or heavy, in your bag.

Disneyland 35-70

And at the top of the price ladder, lenses such as the Leica Elmarit-R 19/2.8 II and Leica Apo-Telyt-M 135/3.4 are true stunners. Special mention goes to the specialty Leica Summilux-R 80/1.4 with its gorgeous bokeh. But even the cheaper lenses perform brilliantly as Steve’s recent reviews of the Jupiter 8 and Petzval lenses (among others) illustrate.

Huge dynamic range
I’ve long been fascinated by the aesthetics produced by some of the digital medium-format photographers. The silky smooth tonal range is particularly appealing to me.

The Sony comes closer to producing that look than any other digital camera I have owned. And I strongly believe the astounding dynamic range has a lot to do with these great results. There is very rarely any harshness in the highlights, gone are grad filters, and dark shadows always lift with very little noise.

It’s truly amazing and – to me – the single most fantastic feature of this camera (shared with others using its sensor, such as the Nikon D800 range) which opens up so many new possibilities

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I could go on. The camera is a never-ending source of pleasure; interspersed with some frustrating episodes, but mainly a gem. It has been my constant companion for a year. I have smuggled it in deep pockets, work bags and suitcases to document my daily life, travels, family parties and it has been equally at ease on all subjects – provided they didn’t move too fast ;)

More importantly, in spite of a slightly warm tinge that’s easy to correct, I think this camera is neutral and can suit many styles. With most lenses, its huge dynamic range makes it a treat in B&W.

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But colour landscapes are just as glorious and the detail is formidable.

The only real type of shooting location it wasn’t designed for is whenever silence is a necessity. Churches are one example and you’ll soon feel conspicuous. However, that’s a small price to pay for the other opportunities opened-up by the amazing sensor, light weight and the form factor which doesn’t attract attention.

The reason I’m writing this now is that it will inevitable be replaced. Probably sooner than later. The sensor is 3 years-old and Sony probably have new tricks up their sleeves by next year. But whatever comes up to replace will signal a fantastic opportunity to acquire this level of technology at significantly discounted price. If I was shopping for the almost-perfect-yet-affordable camera today, I’d wait for the A7r’s replacement and buy an A7r :) It’s that good.

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Sep 242014
 

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Weddings through a Leica

By Bailey Wang

I’m one of those wedding photographers with very limited experience in the old world of photography, you know using film and rangefinders. Sure I got to muck around with my old man’s dust covered Canon EOS-1, that seemed like a great idea for him at that time to have, but it wasn’t anything really of substance. So you could say I’m a relatively upcoming, though after 6 years in weddings it doesn’t so yesterday, DSLR totting photographer.

After 6 years of gun-slinging two testosterone-induced DSLR bodies weekend after weekend, the wear and tear on my temple of love became so impeding that it was high time something had to be done. For quite some time, I had one of those creative impulsive ideas of “I’m going to make things hard for myself and go hardcore manual” and so it was an opportune moment to investigate on a smaller form factor system that would be viable for weddings.

The move from the bulky world that is DSLR to a more physically-asian-friendly system started with my ventures with the Fuji X100, Pro and the more recent Sony A7, all of which for sure that their benefits and quirks. Extensive field testings I carried out in tandem with my D3s worked a dream with the beautifully light systems, and I was this close to getting jumping ship over to the A7r system. Until I was silly enough to, funny enough, bump into the StevenHuffPhoto soon-to-be online bible of reviews. Though I liked what I had with the A7r, it didn’t quite fit the bill, it’s slightly confusing button arrangements and ergonomics wasn’t as pleasing as it was visually, so when I dug deeper into the trove that is the SHP website, I kept hearing about this Leica business. Woe is me for having been so foolish – at least to the wife’s constant um verbal battering of the soon-to-come spending spree.

Many a midnight oil burnt sessions later, I hungrily sought out a local supplier (in Sydney Australia) that would let me touch and feel one of these blasted bodies (Leica M Typ 240). I’d have to say it wasn’t a particularly easy thing to do! After all, what if the foolish potential customer mishandles this “overly-priced snob camera” (as some may call it)? Thankfully one such supplier was more than happy to spend the time to unfold it’s gorgeous packaging for a on site field test, that eventuated with my renowned impulse (to the constant annoyance of the Mrs) buy. What can I say? I fell in love.

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Despite many discussions with my peers on this topic of going hard at it with the manual controls, on whether such a system would be suitable for a fast-pace photography discipline, I just had to have it. It was very much the case of once you go manual you won’t go back. I shoot manual anyway, just not manual focus. So for the next few weeks I lived and slept with the M Typ 240 and 50mm Summilux-R, she became my mistress (hey at least it was out in the open and the wife was always around).

The first wedding shot through the M was such a refreshing experience. It very much is the Apple of the camera world. Minimalist. Gorgeous. Functional. And it just works. With how technology is outpaces today’s technology, and marketing has become the guidance for product development, it is so easy to be lost in wanting the biggest and most badass specifications in one’s kit. Sure the Leica M system seems archaic with no autofocus, built-in USB, WIFI, touchscreen, 24 burst scatter gun shutter, and other plethora of marketing-tech-dribble, but what it does it does so well and for that I’m so thankful that I took the dive into the old (new) world.

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It slows things down. A heck much slower than what the DSLR can do. I love that. Bringing photography back to what it should be, to composition, great lighting and pre thought before pressing down on the shutter makes things so much more pleasing. Not that I was ever the photographer that would put the D3s on burst mode and scatter the hell out of a wedding day to come back with 3000 photographs. Certainly it was frustrating on the first wedding, not knowing exactly how slow the shutter & buffer was in comparison, and certainly things were missed that wouldn’t’ have been missed with a DSLR. But then again, I wasn’t over shooting anymore!

So how did the first wedding go with all these slow-mo things happening? Very well! Considering it was a quasi Lebanese & Portuguese mix wedding, and if any of you have been to these ethnic weddings, there’s a hell lot happening on the day. They sure know how to party it up! Given most of my couples have the Middle Eastern background splashed with the Hispanic, a big high-five for team Leica on keeping up with the pace!

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Concerns that surely the manual focus is not built for a wedding, that the rangefinder system is really for street (some say random) photography were totally dispelled. The experience of framing through a rangefinder became a beautiful perspective of documenting one of the most important milestones in life. And this is where I have come to enjoy photographing weddings through Leica.

I’m not overly concerned about all the technical mumbo jumbo of IQ, sharpness, lines, focus shifts…etc all that comes with any technology. I’m not really all that concerned about the individual performance of each spec, or rather in comparison to say what the modern world of DSLR can avail a photographer. After all I’m after emotion, after drama, not after winning awards for technical prowess. So if you were to talk to me about how each of my lenses fair for a wedding, well…buggered if I know how they technically fair. Hell looking at my photographs, you could probably point things out of whack that may not technically be awesome, but I’m not at all that interested in those aspects of photography.

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Instead, what the Leica system has allowed me to do is to bring me back to the real reasons of why I left my IT job with HP, and onwards to the world of capturing…the world of love, romance, laughter, life and connection. Without all the geeky things to swoon over (funny for a IT geek to comment on), it gives me connection with the day. Not with the camera.

One thing I will confess to geek-love though is how beautiful the Leica swirly bokeh is! I’m a wide-open shooter at heart, even in the world of DSLR, and so having access to so much gorgeous light, bokeh and softness has become as far geek-love as it gets.

So 11 weddings now since having stumped up the cash for the Leica M system, my kit on the day looks like:

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Soon to be added to this kit is a 75mm ‘lux and Canon 50mm 0.95 (damn you Steve), hopefully Fedex hauls ass so that I can have it on next weekend’s weddings. Slightly a kit freak, but each one has it’s own beauty. Oh I still have my 50mm ‘lux-r that I’ve been undecided on whether to sell off or not! The M6 is also on temptation’s list that may or may not make the cut, depending on whether I’m feeling impulsively daring enough to introduce film, but hey every other wedding photographer seems to be jumping on that bandwagon right now!

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I’m still learning about this wondrous Leica system, I’m still finding my way in composition and to bring more life into the weddings I shoot, and I’m loving it. Most importantly, my couples love it.

Bailey Wang

www: www.weddingsoulstory.com
fb: www.facebook.com/weddingsoulstory
twt: www.twitter.com/soulstorystudio
inst: www.instagram.com/soulstorystudio

Sep 242014
 

A Quick Way to Make Focusing a Rangefinder Easier

By Brad Husick

The other day I thought I had invented something new but it turns out that’s pretty hard in the photographic world. After doing some research it turns out that way back in the pre-war days of the Leica II and III series cameras Leica offered a small accessory (ORAKO) that matched the function of my “new” idea. Essentially it was a small round colored filter (yellow, orange or red) that you screwed into the front of the rangefinder patch window. It made the patch a different color from the rest of the viewfinder and improved contrast in many situations. You can still buy them on Ebay for about $100 but they only fit the II, III and IIIa cameras.

Since modern Leica rangefinder cameras have 1) a rectangular patch and 2) no threads there, I decided to try a DIY solution. I purchased a set of lighting gels from Amazon

(link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002GW000/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1)

for $4 and cut a small rectangle from the yellow gel. If you cut it just smaller than the rangefinder patch you can add a drop of lens cleaner and it will stick there. If you cut it too large the flange around the patch will cause it to sit just a little to proud and it won’t stick. I cut mine to be 9mm x 5mm.

I have found that this really makes focusing a lot easier in almost any situation. I am including a photo taken with my iPhone through the rangefinder on my Monochorm. You can see in the center of the frame there is a brass striker plate on the edge of my office door that clearly shows up in yellow in the rangefinder patch.

This package of gels includes yellow, green, red and blue gels in 7″ x 7″ size – enough for 50 people’s lifetimes of this use, so share with your friends who live close by.

I hope you enjoy this DIY.

-Brad Husick

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Sep 162014
 

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Leica: Back to the past with the M “Edition 60″. Vintage Modern.

Leica has unveiled probably the most brave and daring digital camera ever at Photokina. A camera that many people would not even want yet Leica  made 600 of them and hey are charging $18,500 USD for the camera set which includes a cool 35 1.4 Summilux FLE in stainless steel. Yes, $18,500. Just under $20k for a digital Leica M that normally can be found for $6500 or so. The kicker here is that Leica created this special 60th anniversary of the M edition WITHOUT a rear LCD. Nope, no LCD and no chimping or checking your images. Just like in the old days.

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This new camera is about as old school ask it gets while retaining the modern features of the M 240 (besides live view of course). In all reality, this is just an M with a new Audi design and no LCD. In place of the LCD is an old school ISO dial which takes us back to the film days of the M.

No film will be required here but keep in mind that there is NO WAY to check your images after you shoot them, out in the field. If you miss focus or your rangefinder or lens is off, you will not know it until image review.

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Leica has been on the same digital M lifecycle for a while now. Basically an M is released (M 240) followed by a special P version (new M-P) and then a limited edition (now  the M 60). In the M9 days it was the M9, M9P and then the M9 Titanium. In the M8 days it was the M8, M8.2 and then the special edition white M8. But none of those special editions were like this one. Over the years many have begged for a Leica digital RF without an LCD. Many have asked this to be for the Mono version but Leica did it for the M 240 version instead. This means we will probably see a new M in 1-2 years, my guess is 2 years until the next M, which I feel will have an integrated EVF/RF hybrid (or at least I hope so).

This M60 will be one hell of a set though, and I am guessing many will buy them to save and sell in 10-15 years at even more money than they paid for them. Some will use them though and resale value will remain high as it is so unique, so different and so ANTI digital it is pretty awesome.

I think the look and design is STRIKING and has a bit of vintage and a bit of modern. It is the vintage modern Leica.

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To have one of 600 pieces of this one of a kind digital M, as stated earlier, will set you back a cool $18,500 USD. Too rich for my blood, but who here plans on buying one?

You can pre-order the M 60  from Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, Pro Shop. Leica Store Miami, B&H Photo

Sep 162014
 

My top 3 Lusted after Leica items from Photokina 2014

So for me it is the morning after. It is 8Am here in Sunny Phx, AZ and I was up late last night checking out all of the new Leica releases. In fact, Leica has released more than 40 new items and while many are accessories such as cases and bags, many of these were serious releases! Leica has been hard at work creating a range of cameras to fit almost everyone’s tastes and yes, even budget. The stars of the newly announced Leica lineup for me are the new X Typ 113, the M-A, the D-Lux and the new Summarit lenses, which I think will be pretty sweet.

My #1 Lusted after Item announced for Leica?

The new Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon Zm lens – More details HERE

Of course, my #1 most lusted after item that was announced FOR Leica M is the new Ziess 35 1.4 ZM lens. Zeiss is sort of hyping this guy as the best 35mm for the M system and at $2250, it is less than half the cost of the 35 Summilux FLE. I have always had a soft spot for the Zeiss ZM line and while they are not made in Germany, they are made in Japan and the quality of these lenses are of superb quality when it comes to IQ. In fact, I prefer the little 50 Zeiss ZM Planar to the classic 50 Summicron in image rendering, color, pop, bokeh and overall look/feel. The build of the Leica is better but at less than half the price, the Zeiss Zm 50 is so so so good. Many Zeiss ZM lenses are the “goto” for Leica shooters and this new 35 1.4 looks AMAZING. I will be buying one without question for use on my A7s and Leica camera bodies.

So yes, for me, this is the item I most want for my own personal use. You can pre-order the Zeiss Distagon 35 1.4 at B&H Photo in BLACK or SILVER

 

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My #2 most Lusted after item announced FROM Leica?

The new X Typ 113 with 23 1.7 Summilux

I have to admit, I am not a film guy anymore due to costs, time, and all of that stuff we associate with film shooting. Today, for me, digital is just too convenient and too good. So while I LOVE the new M-A film release, and would own one in a heartbeat if it were 1979 or if it were $1500, for me it is just not feasible. It is a beauty for sure but just would not fit for my personal use. I am happy with my M, MM and A7s.

I am also extremely pleased that Leica released the M 60 Years edition. No LCD, and a cool Audi design. This is what Leica is all about. Simplicity, beauty, passion. Gone will be the chimping, the stress, the wondering “did I get the focus right”. Nope, you will not know until you see your shots. God forbid your RF goes out, then you are screwed. In fact, without any EVF or LCD, this would be my #1 concern of the this new limited edition Leica. I have had quite a few RF’s go out of whack over the years and without a way to check them while shooting, I am not sure I would want to do an important job with this one. Still, I LOVE THE CONCEPT and IDEA and would love to own one. At $18,500 it is out of my league but I hope to be able to see one someday :) It’s a beauty and I am sure will be sitting on the shelves of quite a few collectors. B&H has it listed here for $18,500 but you do get the stainless steel 35 Summilux lens, which is a collector in itself and will only go up in value. If one bought this set and kept it for 10 years it could probably be sold for $25k and up.

But even so, neither the MA or the M 60 are in my #2 spot. 

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Instead it is the new X Type 113. With the new Summilux f 1.7 lens, this is finally the X that should have been from day one. While Leica is keeping the X2 (disguised as the new XE) the X 113 is where it is at. It is small, beautiful, and now with a fast 35mm equivalent lens it will bring you that Leica IQ and lens quality all in a sweet small gorgeous package. At $2295 it is not cheap but hey, it is a real Leica. Not a rebadged Panasonic. I can imagine my camera set as the Leica M-P, Leica MM, Sony A7s and the X 113. I would use them all on different days and occasions. Overkill? Sure, but it is my passion and for me you can never have too many cameras! The one drawback of the new X? NO EVF! It seems Leica will NEVER learn that putting a nice viewfinder in their smaller cameras is very beneficial. DROP this externals and go internal Leica. Even without the EVF, the camera is beautiful but the lens makes it for me.

You can pre-order the X Typ 113 in BLACK or  SILVER

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My #3 most lusted after item announced from Leica?

Easy. The new line of Summarit lenses. These little guys look so gorgeous, especially in silver! They remind me of some of the classics in design and look and Leica also states that the lenses have been improved and rehauled giving nicer image quality and a SLIGHTLY faster aperture that creeps into Summicron territory. I mean, look how gorgeous and tiny the 50 Summarit looks!

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I have always been a fan of the Summarit line and in fact, the 35 Summarit is one of Leicas best 35’s IMO! It has the most pleasing Bokeh and has a mix of classic and modern in its rendering. I hope the new version is just as good but it should be better. I may have to pick up the 50 and 90 in this line as the price is right (for Leica) and the size is small, and they just feel “right”. As I get older I am starting to appreciate lenses like this more and more. I am moving away from the ultimate speed (except for the Zeiss 35 1.4 which will be amazing) and also enjoy lenses like this these days. I appreciate small size above all, as long as the quality is there. These lenses fit the bill and they come in at 35, 50, 75 and 90 so it covers quite a large range.

I am sure I will pick up one or two of these in Silver as I think they will do quite well on my silver Monochrom :)

You can pre-order at B&H photo HERE.

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While many have written off Leica over the years, even as early as a few months ago, they appear to be going on full steam ahead. Strong, with a plan and on a mission to provide many options for those who want to get into the brand. Just a few years ago it was just the M8 or M9 with the Panasonic made D-Lux series. Then came the X1 when Leica wanted to expand out to a larger audience, and it worked. Then came the S2, then the floodgates opened and out poured the X2, X Vario, M 240, Monochrom. Now we have all kinds of offerings from Leica. The M, The MM, the D-Lux series, the V-Lux series, the X series and even the T series. Of course the special editions and the film offering as well.

Leica is growing and showing all of those who wrote them off years ago that they are here to stay for the long haul. They have been here for over 100 years and plan on being here for another 100.

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My #4 most lusted after Leica item is the new D-Lux. It is actually the same cameras as the Panasonic LX100 that I have already written about but the Leica version looks bad ass. Of course we get the Leica styling, the red dot, the Lightroom software and the longer warranty with the Leica, which comes in at $300 more than the Panasonic version. For me, well worth it for the better styling, the name/resale value, the software and the warranty. Actually, $300 more for the Leica is not bad at all and a no brainer for any enthusiast or hobbyist. It is not a made in Germany Leica but you do get the extras that make it worth it. It is the same camera, same lens and made in the same factory as the LX100 but it is the Leica version, so we all know how that goes as it has been going on for years and years now, ever since the original Digilux 1. and Digilux 2.

At $1195 this will make for a high end super quality P&S. Housing a 4/3 sensor it will provide images that are not possible with the smaller 1″ sensor cameras.

You can order the new D-Lux HERE. 

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LEICA DEALERS I RECOMMEND:

Ken Hansen (E-Mail him at [email protected])

PopFlash.com

The Pro Shop

B&H Photo

Sep 162014
 

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Photokina Leica Announcements. The Mother load.

Many new products from Leica announced. Wow!

Well today Leica has announced TONS of new products at Photokina. This is the largest release announcement of the show with new lenses, new cameras and all kinds of accessories. I am not going to list every single item as many of them are just cases or simple accessories but I will talk about the meat and potatoes of the announcements and some of them have been rumored for months, others not so much. For me, Leica has really come through with some cool pieces here, even the newly revamped Summarit line of lenses. I am looking forward to reviewing the new X, the new D-Lux and even the new S. I will also be taking a look at the new Summarit line as well as the new Zeiss ZM 35 1.4 if that is indeed a reality.

NEW LEICA CAMERAS

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Leica has brought us new cameras for this Photokina. How about a Leica M 60 Edition (for 60 years of the M) that does not include a rear LCD. Nope, no chimping allowed here! It is basically an M 240 without the LCD on the back. $18,500 with a 35 Summilux  stainless steel lens. Ouch. LIMITED TO 600 SETS WORLDWIDE!

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Leica also released quite the selection from the V-Lux to the D-Lux to the new X type, TWO S cameras, the S and S-E, and the new film M-A camera. The new X will be like the X1/X2 but it also gets a speed increase with a 23mm f/1.7 Summilux lens! Gone is the f/2.8 lens of the X1 and X2, Leica did what they needed to do with this one and brought along a Summilux with some speed to the new X. A VERY WELCOME addition!. Leica means business at Photokina time and this year is no exception. They are obviously pushing full steam ahead and bringing more and more options in all kinds of price ranges. The new V-Lux will appeal to a certain crowd and the D-Lux will be just like the Panasonic LX100, but with a pretty Leica shell, warranty and software :) I feel the LX100 and Leica D-Lux will be a pretty special camera, a future classic if you will.

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I will do separate posts once more details are provided on each major release so keep an eye out here all week for news on the new stuff!

ALL links below go to more info on each item, photos and pre-order options at B&H PHOTO!

The Leica M  – 60 Year Edition – M 240 with no LCD on the back! – $18,500 LLIMITED EDITION SET WITH 35 SUMMILUX FLE IN STAINLESS STEEL!

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The Leica M-A in Black  –  The Leica M-A in Silver

The Leica X Typ 113 IN BLACK  –  The Leica X Type 113 in Silver 

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The Leica V-Lux Typ 114

The Leica D-Lux Typ 109 – Panasonic LX100 Leica version, $1195.

The Leica S Typ 007

The Leica S-E Typ 006

The Leica X-E – Basically this is an X2 in a new color/shell

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NEW LEICA M LENSES

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Leica has announced some new surprises, like the all Silver Noctilux (I have seen one and it is gorgeous) and the silver 35 Summilux. The question is, will they be HEAVY like the old silver versions or will the be lighter, or the same? If the Noct is heavier it will be a problem :) Still, it is cool for Leica to offer these options. The new Summarit line also arrives with a refresh and a tad faster speed going from f/2.5 to f/2.4. The entire Summarit range has gotten the boost from the 35 to the 90.

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ALL links below go to more info on each item, photos and pre-order options at B&H PHOTO!

The Noctilux 50 f/0.95 in SILVER

The 35 Summilux FLE in SILVER

The new Leica Summarit 35 f/2.4 in BLACK, or in SILVER

The new Leica Summarit 50 f/2.4 in BLACK or in SILVER

The new Leica Summarit 75 f/2.4 in BLACK or SILVER

The new Leica Summarit 90 f/2.4 in BLACK or SILVER

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NEW LEICA T LENSES

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The Leica T is a camera I thoroughly enjoyed. It has the Leica vibe going on but in a modern kind of apple way. Many trashed it but I saw through the hubbub and discovered that it really was a true Leica at heart. It stands for simplicity, IQ, small size and amazing quality of build, feel and pictures. The two new lenses below are kind of stinky. Slow zooms yet again, so not sure where Leica is headed with the T but many that I know use it with their M lenses, so maybe that is why Leica is just releasing more zooms. I do know a fast prime is coming later :)

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APO-Vario-ELmar-T 55-135 f/3.5-4.5 ASPH

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NEW ZEISS ZM LENS FOR LEICA M

The Zeiss 35 1.4 ZM lens, WOW!! This one will come in at $2250 but that is less than half of the Leica 35 Summilux FLE. I am sure this will have the typical Zeiss pop, color, warmth and rendering. I will call it ALL MINE! I love almost all of the Zeiss ZM glass preferring some of it to the Leica counterparts. This lens will be gorgeous, and also the most pricey of the ZM standard lenses.

New Voigtlander lenses for M mount 

Pre Order Links – $100 deposit at Cameraquest:

The new 35 1.7 in Black - and in Chrome

The 40 2.8

The 15 4.5 III

and the 10.5 0.95 for M 4/3

 

Photokina is the gift that just keeps on giving. Today Voigtlander announced the new 35 1.7 Ultron lens in VM mount (Leica). This is yet ANOTHER fast 35mm option for Leica M or Sony A7 users. HOW SWEET IT IS! The cool thing is that the Voigtlander lenses are just as well made as the Zeiss lenses and offer image quality that may not equal Zeiss or Leica but is still VERY nice. Take a look at the new 35 1.7 Ultron VM, which looks similar to the amazing 50 1.5 that I reviewed a while back.

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There is also a new version of the 15mm Heliar that I love so much, the new VM Heliar 15 II. No pic yet but will have one soon. Finally, another new Leica M mount lens from Voigtlander will be the 40mm 2.8 Heliar pancake lens, a slim and gorgeous retro design. So three new Leica mount lenses from Voigtlander! Woohoo!

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You can pre-order these lenses at my Voigtlander recommended dealers, CAMERAQUEST.COM. I will be reviewing these new VM lenses for sure! Not sure of pricing just yet, but Voigtlander is always reasonable.

You can also buy Voigtlander at B&H Photo HERE.

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LEICA DEALERS I RECOMMEND:

Ken Hansen (E-Mail him at [email protected])

PopFlash.com

The Pro Shop

B&H Photo

CameraQuest.com for Voigtlander

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

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

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

Sep 152014
 

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Black & White with the Sony A7s, Leica Monochrom and Cheap lenses!

There is a beauty to B&W that is oftentimes not seen in color. Sure, there is place for color photography as our own vision is in color, this is how we see but there is something classic about B&W that just pulls at the heartstrings for many of us. When I was growing up the big thing was Polaroid cameras and instant film. Even 110 cameras and those silly disc cameras with disc film were in. There was NOTHING quite like what we have today and photography, while well-loved by so many back then, was not practiced nearly as much as it is today.

The Sony A7s with the Voigtlander 15 f/4.5. For ANY Leica Monochrome or Sony A7s shooter, his lens is a MUST own. It does well on color on the A7s as well. One of my faves. At $599 shipped, you can not go wrong for those times when you want wide-angle on your full frame. 

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With so many color filled images on Facebook and in all of the social circles I have become quite fond of pure, simple B&W photography.

Yesterday I went out to shoot some portraits of my (soon to be) stepdaughter Katie. I brought along my Monochrom, a Sony A7s and even a Mamiya 645 with Leaf Credo 40 back (have it for testing now) and the HoldFast Money Maker and Roamographer bag I just reviewed. I have to say, this Sony A7s just keeps on impressing the hell out of me. Seriously. It seems there is NOTHING it can  not do. From ultra low light to super bright light. From rich color to pleasing B&W. From using Sony FE lenses to using Leica mount lenses. It just seems to do it all, very well. I won’t even get into the video aspect, which is its main feature.

Even the 85mm f/2 Jupiter 9 that I paid $80 for is a fun lens. This is another Russian Leica screw mount lens and while it is a bit soft wide open it is well worth the cost for when you want a soft look. Sony A7s.

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For me, so far, the Sony A7s has been the best camera release of the year. Even with all of the new stuff at Photokina, so far, nothing has gotten me more than the A7s in 2014. I was shooting it yesterday with a $30 Jupiter 8 lens I picked up locally, which is a Russian Leica Screw mount 50 f/2. Yes, $30. How can ANY $30 lens be any good? Well, it may not be anything like a Leica or Zeiss 50 but it has its charms for sure.

Below is an image I shot with the A7s and Jupiter 8 lens, wide open at f/2. For $30 it can render a beautiful soft image. This was shot on the Sony A7s.

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As I mentioned earlier, I also brought along the Leica Monochrom, which for me is an instant classic. I feel Leica will release a new Monochrome in a year or two based on the M240 or whatever the next M will be. If they do, it will not be like the current monochrome due to the CCD sensor. Again, as with the M9 vs M 240, there will be fans of each model. The Monochrom has something about it that makes you just want to use it, shoot it and LOVE it. Is it worth $8,000? No. But it is a wonderful camera to own and use and it has results that can be superb, depending on the lenses you use with it.

The Leica Monochrom with Voigtlander 15 (cropped)

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The MM is simple in its design, it is an M after all. It has simple menus, basic settings, and is small yet very sturdy and solid. Many scoff at buying a camera that can only do B&W but if you love pure and true B&W imaging and have a true passion for it, there is no other alternative. For me it is like having a Leica film camera loaded with every B&W film type on the market and then some. You can dial in any look you want from Tri-X to Neopan to Delta.

The Leica MM with the Voigtlander 15 – cropped

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So how much difference is there between a file from the Sony A7s and Leica Monochrom when both are done in B&W? Well, the Monochrom will have much more fine detail for super large prints and a more subtle shift of grey tones throughout but the A7s is also very nice with B&W imaging. For the images here I used VSCO filters for ALL of the images so they will all have a similar signature and look. Without those filters the differences are more pronounced with the Monochrom giving a deeper range of grey tones to the image. But I have to hand it to the A7s. It rocks with color or B&W. Daytime or night use. But I still love my Leica MM! Also, use it with some great lenses and it will really strut its stuff.

You must click on these images to see them correctly and larger/better quality. This one is a full wide image from the MM and 15.

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For this shoot I used not only the Voigtlander and the Russian glass, I also use the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 which is a fantastic lens. Contrasty, sharp even when wide open and has Auto Focus so you do not have to be critical with your eyeball :) Both images below were with the A7s and 55 1.8 lens.

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So while B&W may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I love it. For me it pays homage to Photography’s past while also allowing a purity to come through. No white balance to worry about, no color shifts, no problems. Just pure. simple. photography. I would like to thanks my model, Katie Casey for her time and patience with me while I tried to manually focus those old lenses in the 100 degree heat :)

You will notice I did not include any images from the Leaf Credo/Mamiya system. I shot about 20 images with that setup yesterday and it was a BEAST. Heavy, cumbersome, large and loud.

 With that said, here is one from the Leaf setup though the shadow of my head ruined the shot:

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and again, the similar shot with the A7s and $30 Jupiter lens which shows the soft Jupiter signature:

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You can read my full Sony A7s review HERE or buy one HERE at Amazon or at B&H Photo HERE.

You can read my full four-part Leica MM review HERE, see my gallery HERE or buy one at Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash.com, Leica Store Miami or Pro Shop. Also at B&H Photo or Amazon.

Sep 142014
 

Concentration Camps with the Leica Monochrom

by Dan Bar

Hello Steve and Brandon,

It has been some time since my last photos. Anyway I spent a week in Poland intending to visit the two concentration camps Auschwitz and Birkenau. I decided to take the Leica Monochrom + 35 Lux 1.4 only. I first started with Birkanau ( first 5 pics) which was not easy to watch and certainly not easy to photo , yet still bearable. The long line of concrete with the holes in it is actually a latrine where they were forced to do their needs in front of the others. I then went to Auschwitz where I had to stop soon after starting my visit, simply could not face the horror . So I decided to put on only some of the sights I saw there. I hope these deeds will never ever happen again anywhere on the planet.

Thank you

Danny

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Sep 042014
 

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The Sony A7s Experience: Ongoing thoughts on a Fascinating Camera

By Ashwin Rao - Follow Ashwin on Facebook HERE

Hi everyone, here’s an update with my thoughts on the Sony A7s. This is a camera that seems to be gaining interest, particularly for those individuals who enjoy low light photography or who have a set of rangefinder lenses in place and are looking for another body. I posted these thoughts at one of my favorite forums, and wanted to share them with you, along with a few new photos, just in case you were considering buying the camera in light of the 2014 Photokina announcements.

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In summary, I LOVE my Sony A7s. It’s given me a burst of creativity and joy in shooting that I haven’t experienced since my early days with the Leica M Monochrom (and M9 before). Here are my rolling thoughts. In general, it’s the best non Leica full frame digital solution for M mounts to date, though there are compromises (for some).

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Here are some thoughts, in no particular order:

1. The camera does well with Leica M lenses. Only the 28 Summicron ASPH lens has performed “poorly” on the camera, and even it is usable for non-critical work where sharpness at the edges may not be as important. Everything else that I have thrown at it works well or is easily fixed in post processing using the lens vignetting correction tool in LR5.

2. RAW colors are solid. The camera exhibits different palette than Leica’s M9 and M240 (I prefer the look from the M9, personally, but it’s a matter of taste), and the palette seems tweaked compared to the A7R and A7 cameras, though that may just be my own eyes fooling me. Skin tones tend toward orange, but it’s quite easy to fix (unlike the M240, which I struggled to get right for peoples’ skin tones). I find that it’s quite easy to get the look that you want from A7s files with a bit of post processing

3. Dynamic range: To me, solid, better than my M bodies (no banding through most of the ISO range), but maybe not quite as good as the A7R or A7 in recovering shadows and highlights…this seems borne out by DXO testing

4. The silent shutter option is amazing: Absolutely awesome feature, that I believe re-defines this camera for those who employ it. I am surprised that Sony doesn’t allow a programmable custom button to quickly access this feature. A firmware upgrade here would be perfect. I use the silent shutter feature for nearly all of my shooting, as it eliminates any shutter shake effect (the size and design of the bodies does not allow the present A7 bodies to be very well dampened to vibraation), and the silence makes photographed subjects not know when you are shooting, which can be helpful on the street. The silent shutter does not work well in low light scenes where fluorescent lights are at play, due to interference/banding effects due to the frequency of light interacting with the frequency of the electronic shutter.

5. Class leading shutter speeds: The other nice feature not spoken about regarding the shutter, is that it’s possible to shoot up through 1/8000 shutter speed, so in bright light, one can use very fast lenses for creating DOF without the need for a neutral density filter.

6. ISO: yup, it’s great. I have had no issues shooting through ISO 12,800 (though some detail and DR is lost at that ISO), and I have gotten usable shots through ISO 40,000+. I don’t typically push past ISO 40,000. I consider the A7s to be an “ISO-less” camera, in that I don’t consider ISO to be a limiting factor any more for my style of shooting. Paired with fast glass such as f/0.95- f/1.4, one can literally turn night scenes into day. Color fidelity appears to be preserved as ISO’s are pushed up, meaning that colors don’t get too muddy as ISO’s jump up into the stratosphere. That being said, the camera is just as good in normal light. What doesn’t get stressed enough is how good the camera is across its ISO range

7. Using the Voigtlander VM-E mount adapter with close focus opens up now possibilities with close focus and macro work with the M…this is MARVELOUS, for those of you who like to do macro. I am re-discovering macro in this manner. The adapter is pricey, costing around $300, but it’s worth it and allows standard and close focus use in a cleverly designed way. I have found that you have to be a tad careful about infinite focus, as the adapter seems to allow telephoto lenses such as the 90 summicron to focus just a smidge past infinite.

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8. Autofocus: The camera focuses much better in low light, but the change is not really revelatory. I have the 55 FE lens, which I enjoy, but don’t use much ,as I can manually focus faster in low light (or really in all light). The 35 FE is supposedly a lot better, but I don’t own it at this time.

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All in all, I have found the A7s to be a revelatory camera. The combination of camera design (flip up LCD, EVF, M mount capacity, silent shutter, ISO performance, close focus with VM-E adapter) allows me to be creative and to shoot discretely in ways that were not possible before. Is it perfect? By no means…here are some things that could get better.

1. EVF: Solid, but there’s room for improvement (higher resolution, faster refresh rate), particularly when using focus magnification and focus peaking in concert. Now that Zeiss is producing Manual Focus E mount lenses, I am hoping that Sony incorporates more design elements into future E mount bodies to maximize the utility of manual focus lenses

2. Megapixels. For me, the 18 megapixel range (m9, M Monochrom) is a sweet spot, balancing quality of pixels and size of files. I would hope that future A8s or whatever they are called will increase MP counts without compromising ISO performance or M Mount lens compatibility.

3. M mount lenses. As mentioned, they work great on this body…really! But put the 28 Summicron on the body, and you’ll see there’s room for improvement. Hopefully Sony will recognize that these bodies could really stand to use smaller lenses, in which optical elements lie closer to the sensor, and design sensors that accomodate smaller lens design (i.e. rangefinder/retrofocus lenses)

4.Camera haptics. Sony cameras don’t quite have the joy of handling as do other manufacturers (i.e. Fuji, Leica), and simple tweaks to camera button layout, grip, viewfinder placement, and menu structure could go a long way to making the cameras joyful to use for more people. I have many friends who love the quality of Sony files, but don’t really like how the cameras operate.

Okay, hopefully that “mini” review of my present thoughts helps some who are considering taking the plunge. I have zero desire to upgrade or change cameras, because the A7s is an outstanding photographic tool as is and does so much.

All the best,
Ashwin

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