Jan 292015
 

How to use a Leica M Camera

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

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

Jan 262015
 

My Panasonic LX100 Thoughts…

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Hey guys, hope you are all 100% fantastic! Many have been asking me “Steve! Where is your Panasonic LX100 review”!!!

Well, to make a log story short..I had the camera for a few weeks and have mixed emotions on it. After using it with the Fuji X100T and even a Sony RX100 (Hasselblad Stellar) I came to the conclusion that I liked the LX100 the least of the three. Yes, for me (key words..for me) the early version 1 Sony RX100 beat it out due to a few reasons. Even with that said, the LX100 is a compact camera with serious innards and a handsome and rugged build. Leica has their version of this camera which is made in Japan, has Leica styling, and better software and warranty. It is called the D-Lux Typ 109 and many love this camera due to what it offers. I have not had a chance to hold the Leica version so this short and sweet “review” or “non review” will only go over my thoughts of the LX100 from Panasonic. I do have friends who have the D-Lux 109 and they did not have the same issues I had with the LX100. So there ya go.

Most compacts these days use 1″ sensors or smaller. There have been a couple with large APS-C sensors but they were usually with wider angle fixed lenses of 28mm.

The LX100 is a smallish compact, short and squat with a beefy feel and it houses a semi large Micro 4/3 sensor, the same size and type as the wonderful Olympus E-M1, which even today is a world-class camera. The same size as Panasonic’s own GX7, which I really enjoyed. 

It sounds like a dream right? A small good-looking and feeling camera with a highly capable sensor and the big name of Panasonic behind it for under $1000. Well, in some ways it is and in others it is not.

After shooting with it for a while I decided I would not review it (as I was not a huge fan) but there has been a surge of emails asking me about it so I decided to put up this short post with my thoughts on the LX100.

click any image for larger version – EXIF is embedded for all photos

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It’s a fact, yes, the image quality of the LX100 can be fantastic and really close to APS-C offerings. Most cameras today are good in the IQ dept. as long as you stay away from $49 specials. What I look for when I use a camera is a list of things..and for me to like it, this check list is required..

  • Usability. Is the camera easy to use? Is it responsive with well laid out controls?
  • Auto Focus. Does the camera have speedy AND accurate AF?
  • Image Quality: Is the IQ good, fantastic or AMAZING? I like Fantastic to Amazing :)
  • AWB, Color, ISO. I also take these things into consideration.

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So let me start with the Usability..

The Lx100 is a great looking camera design. Many will adore its style and ease of use. The menu system is a breeze to go through and configure and due to the external controls, the camera is easily learned and anyone can get great results with it. So it passed the design and usability test with flying colors. 

Auto Focus. This is where I had issues. The AF of the LX100 seemed speedy enough but in MANY cases it would confirm focus and the result would be an out of focus image. I was using center point, so I knew where the camera should be focusing but it was telling me it nailed it and the results said otherwise. I had enough of these misses (more than any other camera I have used) to make me wonder what was going on with it. It started to frustrate me and made me not want to use it.

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Image Quality. The IQ is nice, and just about what I expected but I did expect a little more as I can get better IQ with my E-M1 or the E-P5 or even the GX7. When I shot landscapes at infinity focus with the LX100, the details were mush, even at base ISO. I took several shots and it was always the same. So not sure if I had a defect or if this was a camera issue. Another reason I decided to NOT review it as I was not sure if I had a lemon or this was just how it was. 90% of the time, the IQ was superb. 10% of the time I had issues. But the issues were enough to make me say “wait a minute..something is not right”. I did a comparison here with the LX100, X100T and Sony RX100 V1 (Stellar). Click HERE to see it.

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When the LX100 did nail the shot all was well. As for higher ISO, it failed that test for me as well. I am used to other cameras amazing high ISO capabilities these days and Micro 4/3 is losing the high ISO battle for sure. Even so, it is not horrible and MUCH better  than it was years ago. Still for the price of $899 I feel there are better options. As I said, I prefer the original Sony RX100 (now $399) to the LX100 for speed, usability, IQ, color, etc. It can be had for half the cost of the LX100 and it will even fit in a pocket. So for me, the LX100 was not enough to push me from my RX100.

Also, the LX100 will not fit in a pocket. Its thick and beefy. RX100 will. Now that I thin of it, look at these names..LX100, RX100, X100…seems the companies are trying to use the same names for some reason :)

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LENS FLARE

The lens on the LX100 has a tendency to flare badly if you have a light source in the frame. I have seen it with street lamps, sunlight and just about any light source if it is in the view of the lens. Wen I tested this side by side with the Sony RX100, Fuji X100T and my Sony A7s and A7II there were no flare issues. Another nail in the coffin for the LX100..for me but do others have this same issue or did I get a lemon?

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At the end of the day the LX100 did not inspire me enough to want to really get out there and shoot with it. I wish I could have tested the Leica version because while it is the same camera, it is made in a  different factory to higher standards and includes better extras (warranty, accessories, software) while looking nicer. If the flare issue was not so bad it would jump this camera up from NOT recommended to RECOMMENDED. If the AF did not miss on occasion (more than it should) it would go from RECOMMENDED to HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Maybe I will see if I can get a hold of the Leica version to see if it has the same issues I had with this LX100. If I can, expect a full review. This here was not a review, just my thoughts after using it for 3 weeks. I did not like it enough to recommend it so just wanted to explain why in this short post. But if you want a great camera at a superb price, right now you can get the original Sony RX100 for a song. Check out this deal here.  $399 loaded with extras and prime shipping at Amazon. I use the Hasselblad Stellar SE as I nabbed one at the blowout 70% off price over the holidays but it is the same camera.

if you want a step up in IQ try the Fuji X100T, Leica T, or Leica X

If you want an LX100, click here. If you want a Leica D-Lux 109, I suggest Ken Hansen or PopFlash.com .

Tomorrow I will post my Sony 16-35 Lens review ;) Stay tuned!

Jan 152015
 

2014 – My year with Leica

By Jason Boucher

Long ago I read Mike Johnston’s post on The Online Photographer about a year with Leica and it would make you a better photographer. I wanted to jump in at the time, but at that time couldn’t imagine spending that much on an “old” camera and it would force me to buy a new lens. I ended up buying a used Bessa as well as a used Voigtlander lens. While the original article suggested to commit fully, I committed to at least 1 roll of film per month. In that year I relearned so much about photography. It slowed me down. It made me intentional in my shooting. It also was my 1st experience with a rangefinder and frankly, the focusing became second nature and something I preferred over the split prism I grew up with. I was happy with my Bessa and my m43 digital and DSLR autofocus kits. That year with film and my Bessa really did help me.

A couple of years ago, things changed for me. I took a new job where I was not providing social content and digital image assets to the company I work for. This freed me a bit from photography as work. I could do photography for me and for me only. Coincidentally at the same time, my friend at my local camera store, National Camera Exchange, called me one day and said they got a used M9 in mint condition. I went in and held it in my hands. Wow. It was love and lust at first sight. But…cash was still a problem and I left instead with a used M8. Figuring I could give it a try and not loose much money. I had 1 M -mount lens at the time, a Zeiss 35 f2.8, I attached it and shot it almost exclusively for a couple of months.

Here are a few shots from my summer vacation and family visit in North Dakota with the M8

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It was a lovely set up and gave me a few images that I truly cherish. That old M8 has some quirky but special mojo. To be honest, it is still my favorite black and white, digital camera of all time and one day hope to own one alongside my newer Leica digital M camera. That missing IR filter does something amazing to skin and skin tones. But…I just could not handle the noise of shutter as well as the inability, at least with my single lens I owned, to shoot at higher ISO’s and in lower light, something I do a lot. So I put it away and shot it on special occasion.

About mid way through 2014, I took the M8 on a trip again and was reminded of both the experience and the glorious output. So…I sold everything else I owned including my new Fuji XT1 as well as the M8 and came home with a used M240. Over the course of the fall I slowly added some used M mount glass. I know much has been written about the M240 and how some folks prefer the M9 CCD sensor. I had some experience with the CCD with the M8 and in certain instances do prefer it, the overall shooting experience, capability as well as the higher ISO capabilities make the M240 an easy and preferred choice for me. It just works.

M 240 Images…

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My Leica M240 has become an extension of my hand as well as the most amazing creative tool I have ever used. I am no professional and shoot only for myself, but I am pleased with and believe the camera has in fact been a driving factor in changing my personal style and satisfaction with photography. I know that for each of us that we all respond uniquely to gear and many feel that Leica’s are a bunch of hype. I thought that too, but in the end, I feel that it did help me develop, grow and output better images.

So….Even though I really only starting using Leica cameras halfway through 2014, I still consider it my year of Leica.  Hope you enjoy them and my wish to all of you in 2015 is that you find that muse, that tool, that thing that inspires you and helps you develop your craft and art.

Cheers

Jason
www.imaginegnat.com

Jan 132015
 

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Italy, Transylvania, Austria with Sony A7s, Olympus E-M1 and Leica

by Neil Buchan-Grant – See all of his guest posts HERE

Hi Steve,

I thought it was about time to share with you some of the pictures I’ve been making over the last year. As ever my photography has been mostly made with the Olympus EM1 but following on from your enthusiastic response to the Sony A7s, I decided to trade in my A7 for one. I only use the Leica M 50mm Summilux ASPH on the A7s but its a combination that, although limited in application, has proved to be a great one.

I spent most of the summer at home in England enjoying the fine weather we had here, but I booked myself a week of shooting in a villa on Lake Como in northern Italy for the end of August. The village I stayed in was buzzing as George Clooney was in town shooting his latest coffee commercial just before his wedding in Venice. I then had a very fruitful week in the marvellous city of Sibiu in Transylvania. I was given backstage access to a fashion show there which led to some intimate low light shots made with both cameras.

This was made in the hotel Villa D’Este, in the games room, with a Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/160s, f1.4 ISO 1600 Model: Thorn

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Shot with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux in available light, 1/320s, f1.4 ISO 100 Model: Bethany Cammack

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Another shot in the city of Sibiu made with the Olympus OMD EM1 + Leica DG 25mm 1.4, 1/200, f1.4, ISO 200, available light. Model: Amalia Beksi

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In London this shot used only available light and was made with the OMD EM1 and the new 40-150mm 2.8 lens @ 45mm, 1/50s, f2.8, ISO 1600

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During a quick break in Vienna Austria, I was lucky to come across an exhibition featuring the work of a New York fashion photographer of the 1950’s called Lillian Bassman. I found her work incredibly beautiful. She was a contemporary of the likes of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn but for me she took things to new levels of artistic endeavour with her innovative printing techniques and her eye for elegance and drama. I’ve since bought her book “Women” and I now long to work with long-necked women and couture hats!

This was shot in the villa on Lake Como with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/200s f1.4 ISO 800, available light (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Donutella Viola

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This was made in the villa on Lake Como with some continuous lights I had brought with me. Shot with the Olympus OMD EM1 + Olympus 17mm 1.8, 1/80s, f2.8, ISO 800 (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Chiara Sgarbossa

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I made this shot in the garden in Como with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/80s, f1.4. ISO 100, available light Model: Jessica De Virgilis

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Another shot of Jessica made at the edge of Lake Como. It was shot at dusk with an off camera flash through a mini softbox on the Olympus OMD EM1 and the Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 lens @ 12mm, 1/250s, f3.5, ISO 200. The image is a composite of the original colour version and a black and white conversion, blended to give a dramatic effect. Model: Jessica De Virgilis

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Shot with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux in available light, 1/320s f1.4, ISO 100 Model: Bethany Cammack

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Finally the prospect of more dark winter skies was too much so I booked a week in the Spanish Canary Islands over Hogmanay. I had the new Olympus 40-150mm 2.8 PRO lens on loan, it just went back today..:( and I was dying to use it in good light. Its’s a lens which I would happily recommend to anyone with a micro four thirds camera, it’s bitingly sharp! By some ridiculously lucky chance encounter, I ended up shooting a UK model who was there on vacation. This gave me some great opportunities to test this new lens on something other than landscapes. Thanks again for the opportunity to share these pictures with your readers.

I took this shot backstage at the fashion show in Transylvania with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 45mm 1.8, 1/60s, f1.8, ISO 3200 available light, (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Raluca Mararu

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This was also made at the same event with the OMD EM1 + 17mm 1.8, 1/100s, f1.8, ISO 1000, available light (grain added later in Silver FX Model: Rosalinda Mihaela Zadaroinea

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This image was made in the changing rooms with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/125s, f 1.4, ISO 1000, available light, (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Cucerzan Adelina

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During my stay in Sibiu I was lucky to work with some of the models on locations in the city. This was made with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 12-40mm lens, 1/320, f2.8, ISO 200 using an off camera flash through a mini softbox (18”) Models: Amalia Beksi and Flavia Bodi

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Kind Regards
Neil

Neil Buchan-Grant
http://buchangrant.com
British Travel Press Photographer of the Year

A few more…

This landscape in Fuerteventura was made with the OMD EM1 + 40-150mm 2.8 PRO @ 40mm, 1/320s, f4, ISO 200 Polariser

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This image was made at sunrise in Fuerteventura with the OMD EM1 + 12-40 2.8 PRO @ 12mm, 1/2500s, f2.8, ISO 200, Polariser

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Another one in Fuerteventura this time with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 40-150mm 2.8 PRO @ 115mm, 1/1600s, f2.8, ISO 200 available light Model: Bethany Cammack

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This picture was made in Fuerteventura in available light with the OMD EM1 + 45mm 1.8, 1/3200s, f1.8, ISO 200 Model: Bethany Cammack

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This picture was made during a rehearsal of the English National Opera’s Nutcracker at the Colosseum in London. It was made with the OMD EM1 + 75mm 1.8 lens, 1/400, f1.8, ISO 3200 (grain added in Silver FX)

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This photo of people watching a firework display in Winchester was made with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/125s, f1.4 ISO 25,600

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Jan 032015
 

Hi Brandon,

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

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

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

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

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

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Regards,

Fahad A

Saudi Arabia

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

Dec 272014
 

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The Sony A7II  Real World Camera Review. My Camera of the Year 2014.

Follow SteveHuffPhoto.com on Facebook!

**Direct Links: Buy the A7 II at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE**

You just gotta love Sony. They are back yet again at the end of 2014 and have released a camera that is not only a fantastic update, but this one is my pick for camera of the year 2014! 

Yep, they squeezed in the last couple of weeks of 2014 and captured my #1 fave camera of the year. My #2 for 2014 is the Sony A7s, and those who know me and know this website know that I LOVE the Sony A7s. If you did not see my A7s review, you can see it by clicking here. 

The low light monster A7s really grabbed me in so many ways, from the full frame 12MP sensor that can literally see in the dark to the beautiful color and quality that comes from it. The fact that I can shoot at ISO 40,000 and get usable images from the A7s is pretty amazing. To my eye (and many others) Sony improved the image quality/color and AWB with the A7s and this made the images POP and have a more beautiful color. The Auto Focus could/can see in and focus in the dark, even without an AF assist light. So the A7s has been my #1 camera ever since it was launched. The silent shutter and ability to shoot wide angle Leica M lenses was icing on the cake.

So now today I am here to sit at my desk in a Log Cabin in the woods I rented for the Holidays..for the long haul..to write about my real word experience with the new and quite popular Sony A7II. As you already know, from my opening statement above…I love the A7II enough to have made it my pick for Camera of the Year 2014.

For me, Sony stepped it up in many ways with the A7II compared to the over one year old A7 yet it will not replace my A7s. Instead it will be an addition to it.

Wow. The Leica Noctilux on the Sony A7II at f/0.95. Look at the color..the depth..the magical rendering that adds emotion and soul to the image. This lens on the A7II is MAGICAL and in no way inferior to  using it on a Leica M, in fact, the color is much better here than with the M. Click image for larger version.

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For one, the build of the A7II is all new and more beefy and solid. The camera feels like a  “pro” camera. It’s very nice.

They also changed the ergonomics by adding a new bigger grip and changing the buttons and dials around a bit. The shutter button and custom buttons are placed in a much better way allowing your fingers to naturally fall where the buttons lay. Perfect. After much use with the A7Ii and A7s, I prefer the shutter button placement of the new A7II. Take a look at my 1st look video below which was shot the day the A7II arrived…

My 1st look video when I received the A7II

 
The AF speed has improved by 30% over the A7 Mark I according to Sony (and I agree) and what may be the biggest news of all comes in the form of in body image stabilization. Sony is now using the 5 Axis IS system which moves the sensor itself to compensate for any hand movement or shake. This means that you will now get up to a 4 stop advantage when shooting low light and needing that extra bit of help keeping things steady…

…and yes, the 5 Axis IS works with classic lenses as well as modern day Leica M mount lenses though the system will revert to a 3 Axis IS (similar to what is in the Olympus E-M10). The 5 Axis will not make the A7II equal the A7s but it does indeed help in low light situations.

The Sony/Zeiss 35 f/2.8 at 2.8, a fantastic lens on the A7II. Click for larger. 

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Sony also upped the Ante with the video, bringing in the same video possibilities as the A7s which has been heralded by some video pros as a fantastic camera for making films. I feel the video works very well with the image stabilization though I am not a video wizard and will be evaluating this camera mainly for photos. Even so, the video I shot with the A7II was fantastic. It has a mic input and the on board mics are quite beefy. By that I mean they are not tinny sounding. They sound nice and full as a good mic should.

With all of these improvements in the A7II you would think Sony would have priced it at the A7s level, or around $2500. Nope! The A7II is $1698 for the body only, which is a HUGE HUGE bang for the buck and worth every penny. Every cent. Every bit of it. I remember many years ago buying an original Canon 1Ds. I spent about $10k on the body and a couple of NON L Canon lenses. Today in 2014 this Sony A7II beats that old Canon 1Ds in EVERY single way from speed to image quality to high ISO to usability and versatility. Digital Photography has come a LONG way over the past 10-15 years.

With the Sony A7II comes a camera that will let YOUR abilities shine or your NON abilities to also shine ;) It is a camera for an amateur, enthusiast or pro, as it has enough to handle almost anything besides fast action sports shooting even though the continuous AF has been improved quite a bit. If you want a camera for the long haul, one that does not cost a fortune yet gives you results that appear that it does, one that will grow with you or allow you to flex your own photographic muscle, then I urge you to read on as this A7II may be just what you have been looking for.

The Voigtlander 40 2.8 for Sony E mount using the Voigtlander close focus adapter. This $400 lens is very nice with a classic rendering though does have some slight vignetting. I reviewed it HERE.

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But the A7II is not perfect, and I will get into all of this as the review goes on.

DISCLAIMER: As you have already seen, I will also show image samples from the A7II using all kinds of lenses from the Sony/Zeiss offerings (35 2.8. 55 1.8 and 16-35) as well as some M mount lenses from Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander. Even a few from the teeny Nikkor 5cm 1.4 S mount. With the A7 series, almost ANY lens can be used from any manufacturer with the use of adapters. For this reason, I will be showing the results from all kinds of cool lenses in addition to my favorite three Sony/Zeiss lenses.

THIS, to me, makes the A7 series so much more desirable than any other camera system available today. Sure, you can mount most lenses to an Olympus E-M1 as well but you lose out on the full frame sensor that gives you the full lens character. So a Leica 50 Summilux or Noctilux will retain the same character that it does on a Leica M, in some cases even better. Amazing!

Just think about how special this is. Many of you will be saying “I have no interest in manual focus lenses” because you probably have a DSLR history or are just so used to AF lenses you are nervous to try a nice manual focus lens. I am here to tell you though  – DO NOT FEAR MANUAL FOCUS lenses on the A7 II! Shooting old classic RF lenses is a joy and SO BEAUTIFUL. Lenses can be had from $30 to $13,000 so there are affordable choices that are quite nice.

Manual focus with a Leica Noctilux, at f/0.95. Added a filter using VSCO filters and with the focus peaking and magnification of the A7II, manual focus is a breeze and is actually in a way more rewarding and makes using the camera even more special. 

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With that said, the original Sony 35 2.8, 55 1.8 and new 16-35 perform fantastic as well on the camera. There is something for everyone with this camera and that is the beauty of it.

The A7II at ISO 8000. An out of camera JPEG with Noise Reduction turned OFF. Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8. 

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The Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 at ISO 1600 – click for larger – OOC JPEG – The color, the crispness and the overall rendering is fantastic here! OOC JPEG at night!

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The Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 once again, at night! OOC JPEG

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The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 with the A7II at ISO 3200, zero noise reduction. OOC JPEG

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The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 at ISO 2000 – OOC JPEG

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The 16-35 2.8 zm Zeiss at my Christmas 2014 Getaway ;) Where I wrote this review!

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The 16-35 and A7II at a Comicon fanfest in Phoenix AZ

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First Impressions & Build

Wow, so many photos already and I am just getting started on this review! Phew!

My very 1st impressions of the Sony A7 Mark II was quite surprising. I was expecting an A7 with 5 Axis thrown in but when I took it out of the box I was a bit shocked to feel how much better built it felt, and the A7 already had a good build as it was. This was different. The new body with new grip and button layout feels more beefy and solid. It is slightly larger now due to the 5 Axis inside but it’s still much smaller and thinner than a DSLR.

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When I held the camera in my hand I was impressed with not only the feel and heft but the new finish of the camera which is now a matte and a slightly rougher finish compared to the almost candy coated glossy black of the A7’s that came before. It has the metal build of the A7r and you can feel it. The camera is not thicker but the grip is, and this makes the camera appear larger than the older A7 and A7r as well as the A7s. Adding in the 5 Axis IS made the body slightly bigger so for some of you, this is good. For others you may not like the extra size.

When you hold this camera you instantly know you have something of great quality here, even more than the $1698 that it costs. It feels like a $2500-$3k body and no matter what anyone tells you, it is SMALLER than ANY DSLR and quite a bit smaller than even the Nikon Df. It’s not quite DSLR sized, and the way I love to shoot it is with small rangefinder lenses. BTW, Manual focus is a breeze (as already hinted) with the large EVF (same EVF from the previous A7 series).

You can set up any of the custom buttons to whatever you like. I have the C3 button on the back set up for focus magnification (and yes, you still need to do two button presses to get it magnified) and it makes for a quick and easy way to manually and critically focus any RF lens, such as a Leica Noctilux 50 0.95 which is the most critical lens to focus wide open. Basically, all of the buttons can be assigned to whatever you like meaning your A7II can be customized to your preferences.

Speaking of the Leica Noctilux

When using the Noctilux on the Leica M, you HAVE to make sure your rangefinder is 100% spot on or else it will be a lesson in frustration. Your shots will be slightly out of focus and makes the lens an expensive paperweight. On the A7II, using the Live View EVF with peaking or magnification means you never have to worry about your camera being calibrated. What you see is what you get. As much as I love and adore Leica M bodies, I would be lying if I said I never had Rangefinder calibration issues. When this happens it is NOT fun so using these “best lenses in the world” on the Sony A7II is a joy.

Below are a few examples of this stunning and unique lens on the A7II

All shots using the Leica Noctilux, 0.95, and shows the same gorgeous quality that it does on the Leica M but in some ways, slightly better. 

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and below…ISO 12,800, from RAW, ZERO Noise Reduction. THIS is what makes these Sony cameras special. ISO 12,800 and with a lens like the Noctilux lighting up the scene, it gives the impression that there was light to work with. When shooting this I could not see her with my eyes yet looking through the EVF allowed me to “see in the dark” and the image appears to be lit up when it was not really like this in real life. The A7s or A7II with a Leica Noctilux offers things that are not possible with any other camera system, period. ZERO noise reduction as always.

If anyone is interested in a Noctilux for their A7, A7II, A7s or A7r, I recommend Ken Hansen ([email protected]), the legendary Leica dealer.

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An Artist’s Tool

The buttons on the back are all laid out nicely, in place where you would and could easily access them. I am sitting here writing this and I have a Nikkor 50 1.4 S mount rangefinder lens on the camera. It feels SO SO solid and is nice and compact with this lens on.

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The bonus? This lens has some magic in its rendering and while I once had it for Leica screw mount (which can run you up to $600-$800) this time I was able to buy the S mount for about $100 and pick up an S to E adapter from Cameraquest. Same lens as the screw mount but until now, the S mount lenses were not desirable as they were not usable on any digital cameras. As of today, it is quite easy to find S mount RF glass quite cheap. I have a feeling this may change with so many Sony shooters out there and the new Adapter ;)

There I go again, talking about lenses!

The cheap but super cool Nikkor 5cm 1.4 S mount Rangefinder lens works perfectly with the Sony A7II and S to E adapter (available at CameraQuest here)

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The Sony A7 series is like a true artists tool because you can literally mount ANY lens to it and there are some very cool, very funky and mighty fine lenses out there that can be had for a song. Even my $30 Jupiter 8 does fantastic on the A7II. No DSLR can do this, none. You can not do this on a Fuji body THE RIGHT WAY as the lenses are all compromised seeing that you do not use the full frame of the lens on an APS-C crop sensor. Same goes for Micro 4/3. To date, the ONLY cameras capable of such versatility with lenses is the Sony A7 series. Even the Leica M can not do what the A7II does. The A7 series of cameras are unique for this very reason.

The Jupiter 8, a 50mm f/2 that is light, cheaply made and CHEAP to buy (mine was $30). This lens is even fantastic on the Sony A7II! It’s a Leica screw mount lens so I use a cheap $10 Adapter to turn it to M mount then use my Voigtlander close focus adapter to mount it to the A7II. 

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So my 1st impressions on Day one of the camera were pretty amazing. In fact, two hours after getting the review unit I placed an order for my own A7II. I put my money where my mouth is as I always do when I rave about something. With that out of the way (and already over 2800 words written, geez) let me get started by breaking down what I LOVE about the camera, and then I will talk about what I think should have been different or improved upon.

I will break this down into oddball sections that pop into my head as I write..when I do my reviews I never have a plan or template or even an idea of what I am going to say…it just flows out as I write, so keep that in mind.

The A7II with the super cool Voigtlander 40 2.8 (my review of that lens is here). Crisp, clean, slight vignetting but super sharp for $400. These are OOC JPEGS.

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The A7II Sharpness and Detail

While I love the Sony A7s and have used it ever since its launch, almost daily, the A7II will obviously have more detail due to the 24MP sensor (vs the 12mp sensor of the A7s). The bonus? For the most part, the A7II gives us the color, AWB and more pop of the A7s, which improved from the A7 and A7r. Below take a look at simple OOC JPEGS, yes Out of Camera JPEGs showing how sharp this camera can be without any muss of fuss of RAW processing. Make sure you click on each image to show the 100% crops correctly!

The 1st shot is from the A7II and 55 1.8 lens, at 1.8 This is a JPEG ladies and gentleman, usually this means mushy details but for this one I was very pleasantly surprised to see Sony improved the JPEG rendering of the A7II. Click for larger,

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This next image shows a 100% crop. I used an old 50 year old Leica 50 2.8 Elmar. Click the image to see the full size crop..the detail and the nice looking JPEG file. Again, OOC JPEG!

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Even more details. Rich deep color using the “CLEAR” JPEG preset. 

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…and one more with a crop..the Voigtlander 40 2.8 at 2.8. This lens give a nice color rendering that borders on watercolor and reality. It’s quite beautiful. JPEG!

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…and a full size image  – out of camera JPEG using the Sony 55 1.8 – YES, A JPEG!

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While we get most of the good stuff from the A7s (color, AWB, pop, video specs) we do not get ALL of the good stuff. For example, with the A7II we do not get the silent shutter option as this is sensor specific. We also do not get usable ISO 40,000 images but we do gain the 5 Axis Image Stabilization which helps with low light. We also gain the build and re-design of the A7II.

So basically the A7II should be compared to the A7 Mark I (which I do not own but have shot extensively) and not the A7s as the A7s is a specialty camera for those who do not mind the 12MP resolution. The A7II when compared to the now $1200 A7 is much better due to all of the improvements.

Let’s break down the details of the A7II..

24.3MP Full-Frame Exmor CMOS Sensor

This sensor is fantastic yet it is the same sensor that we had in the original A7. Sony tweaked things a bit though to deliver the better IQ and color over the A7 Mark I.

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Sony’s processing that gives us more speed in the A7II.

5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization

First seen in the Olympus bodies such as the E-M5, E-M1 and E-P5, 5 Axis IS is powerful. For video it is superb and for images it allows you to shoot in lower light than before as the 5 Axis IS will move the sensor itself to compensate for your own hand shakes. It works well and I was able to shoot an image at 1/15th of a second with the 55 1.8. Some will say we should be able to do 1/8th of a second with the 55 but without the 5 Axis I was only able to pull off 1/45th. Click below for my 1/15th shot indoors, ISO 1600 with 100% crop. (click on the image).

So any way you slice it, the 5 Axis IS is a nice help and it is worth having it for photo and video. With video it gives some wide angle lenses such as the 16-35 a steady shot kind of feel. No shakes, no jitters, just smooth video.

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Enhanced Fast Hybrid AF and 5 fps Burst

Sony sped up the Auto Focus speed for the A7II and I can tell that it improved. Continuous AF is also improved with much better tracking of your subject.

Full HD XAVC S Video and S-Log2 Gamma

For the video guys, this is good stuff.

3.0″ 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor

Same LCD as the previous A7 series

XGA 2.36M-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder

Same EVF as the previous A7 series

Weather-Resistant Magnesium Alloy Body

The A7II is weather resistant and has weather seals. Body is made of Magnesium Alloy.

Refined Grip & Robust Lens Mount

We gain a beefier lens mount and the larger more refined grip. This is a nice improvement but some will prefer the smaller grip of the old A7 and some will prefer the A7II grip.

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC

The A7II still has the WiFi and NFC built in.

So all in all, the A7II uses the Same A7 sensor with tweaked image quality in color, AWB and overall JPEG rendering. The Body is redesigned to feel like a pro body with a beefier grip and lens mount. The 5 Axis IS is the big news here and gives the camera an overall polished feel. The A7II feels complete. It feels like a camera and not a computer. This is good.

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Low Light/High ISO of the A7II 

Ever since I acquired the Sony A7s I have become spoiled by the spectacular ability it has in low light. I have shot images at 102,000 ISO and they were PUBLISHED and usable. Insane capabilities. Of course ISO 102,000 will in no way create a clean image but it does better than any other camera I ave ever used when it comes to cranking up the ISO to get a usable image.

The A7s is quite a bit better than the A7, A7II, A7r when it comes to extreme high ISO because of the 12 MP sensor. Having those big fat megapixels on a full frame sensor helps to kick it into overdrive when it comes to low light abilities. But many could not get along with the 12 MP sensor. Some had a problem with it mentally, others just had a problem with it because they did not want to spend $2500 for a 12MP camera. Me, I printed 20X30’s from my A7s and the prints are gorgeous so I do not need 24, 36 or 54 megapixels to be happy. I am not one who stands an inch from a print trying to see how detailed it is…to me, this is not photography but a pixel peeping disorder. These are the things that can take away the true meaning of photography yet many suffer from it.

With the 24 Megapixels of the A7II we get to a happy medium between low and crazy high. I feel 18-24 MP is perfect and higher is usually when I start to have issues with file sizes, blurred images from hand shake, etc. Also, this is the first Sony body for me that meets or exceeds the legendary Sony RX1R. 

So after using the A7s since launch and not having a worry in the world using Auto ISO up to 80k, low light with the A7II made me nervous. I decided that I would cap it off at 12,800 which to me, is about as high as one would want to go with the A7II. But even so, 12,800 is massive!

Below are some shots taken at various high ISO as well as a side by side with the A7s at ISO 12,800 and 25,600.

ALL with ZERO Noise Reduction. ZERO. 

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Many have asked me how much better the Sony A7s is with high ISO. Well, remember that the max ISO of the A7s is 402,000. The max ISO of the A7II is 25,600. I have shot the A7s at 102,000 ISO and had a shot published at that ISO though it was noisy.

The A7s at 12,800 and 25,600 has an edge over the A7II of course but the difference may not be as huge as you think. I found the A7II is also pumping out even more bold color than the more natural color of the A7s. Still a different rendering than the A7 Mark I though. These files were all Out Of Camera RAW files, meaning, nothing was tweaked at all. No noise reduction was applied at all. What you see is what you get.

Click the images below to see the 12,800 and 25,600 shots. This was taken inside a kitchen without lights on in the kitchen, just some window light.

And now a comparison with the Sony A7s at ISO 12,800 and 25,600 (the max of the A7II)

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So while the A7s is still the king of the night, the A7II does mighty fine at higher ISO’s. I found ISO 8000 is a sweet spot for high ISO work, and ISO 12,800 will work well if needed. Not too shabby! Images above were taken with a Voigtlander 35 1.2 Lens.  Another mighty fine manual lens for the A7 series.

The Wide World Of Lenses for the A7II!

NATIVE LENSES: There are many lenses for the full frame A7 system even though the A7 (FE) mount is only 13 months old! Not sure why people claim there are no lenses. Sony has release a slew of them in a short time with many more to come.

16-35 Zeiss – Superb Ultra Wide Zoom, SUPERB!
28-70 Kit Zoom – CHEAP and Decent..did I say CHEAP?
24-70 Zeiss – Excellent Zoom, just as good as any Canon or Nikon!
35 F/2.8 Zeiss – Bests my Leica 28 Elmarit at 1/2 the cost. Yes, really.
55 1.8 – Gets close to the Leica 50 APO at 1/8th the cost. (I have done side by sides on this site. many preferred the Sony lens)
70-200 f/4 – Here is the 70-200 most people wanted! 
There is also a 28-135 Cinema lens for FE mount by Sony.
Zeiss 35 f/2 Loxia for FE
Zeiss 50 f/2 Loxia for FE

Also, the 50 Mitakon Speedmaster f/0.95 – I reviewed it HERE but this is a full frame FE mount lens. Super speed.

New primes on the way this year. Within 3 years there will be more lenses for FE then you know what to do with as third parties are making them for FE as we speak.

Those lenses above cover 16-200mm right now. The A7 series is only 13 months old. In 13 months that is quite a number of lenses released. More than Fuji managed to release or Olympus for that matter. The FE mount is NEW so for this many lenses to be out already is quite amazing really.

More details…

So if you want NATIVE mount lenses, there are plenty here now with more on the way. If you want to be adventurous there are so many lenses you can use and have more fun with and get even more beautiful results with for not any more effort. It is the most versatile system you can buy right now with more lenses available to shoot than any other system.

To date, my favorite native lenses have been the 55 1.8, the 35 2.8 and the newer 16-35 which is a stellar wide angle lens. So for Sony native lenses you have quite a few excellent choices, even a nice 24-70 Zeiss.

Then we have the new Zeiss Loxia lenses, the 35 f/2 and 50 f/2. These are stellar in quality but are manual focus and a little larger in my opinion. They will offer you great Zeiss color and pop but do not expect the size and feel of the Zeiss ZM lenses, which also perform well on the A7II.

Of course there are all kinds of lenses that can be used on the A7 series with the correct adapters. Leica M mount lenses, Voigtlander M mount lenses, screw mount lenses, Nikkor S mount lenses, Canon and Nikon lenses, Contax lenses, etc.

When you sit down and think about it, the A7II has thousands of lenses that can be mounted and used. From vintage to artsy to creative to modern day masterpieces. I love shooting of rangefinder glass on these cameras as it is a sinch to focus and the results are quite different than the native lenses, with more character and pizzaz as well as being quite a bit smaller and better made.

I use Leica M lenses, Voigtlander M lenses, Zeiss ZM M lenses, and even a Nikkor S mount lens. All are fantastic in their own way, even my $30 Jupiter. ;) All are simple to use and make shooting more fun IMO.

Taken with A vintage Nikkor 50 1.4 in S mount. An old rangefinder lens that I am using thanks to the new Adapter available at CameraQuest.com. If you have old S rangefinder lenses, this adapter will let you use them on the Sony A7 series of camera. 

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The Voigtlander 40 2.8 on the A7II

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So whoever buys into the Sony A7 system, you have thousands of lenses at your disposal to use and have fun with. From a cheap Jupiter to a crazy Leica Noctilux  to the Native lenses from Sony, all will deliver a different feel and vibe which makes using this camera very motivating. You never know what jewel you may uncover on you lens hunts.

If going with a Leica M mount lens, wether it is from Leica, Voigtlander, Zeiss or whoever, I highly recommend THIS adapter from Cameraquest.com. I own two and they are hands down the best adapter available, even allowing close focus with any M lens, something even the M can not do. Pricey but you get what you pay for and I always believe it is better to buy ONCE instead of buying, selling and buying again.

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Shooting Wide Angle M Mount Lenses on the A7II

From my experience, anything less than 28mm will bring in some color distortions with the A7, A7r and yes, A7II. The A7s is the best A7 camera for Leica wide angle lenses and the A7II has done OK with even the Zeiss 25 2.8 Zm lens but not so well with the Voigtlander 15 4.5. So if you mainly shoot wide angle Leica lenses, the A7II will not be your best bet. It is indeed the same sensor as the A7 Mark I, so I did not expect any major improvement there.

Below are three shots using the Zeiss ZM 25 2.8 Lens. A tiny and superb wide angle  that is between a 28 and 21. It did not do quite as well on the Leica M9 or M 240, and was a little off on the A7r due to colored fringing and edges. On the A7s and A7II it seems to do pretty good with the best performance on the A7s.

Three shots with the A7II and Zeiss ZM 25 2.8. You can buy this lens at B&H Photo HERE.

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To my eyes the 25 is not perfect with the A7II but it is perfectly acceptable for me. I am not a massive pixel peeper though and go for the memory/emotional aspect of the photo, not the perfection aspect. Still, I am LOVING the A7II colors with almost any lens I attach to it. With that said, the best choice for Leica lenses from 28mm and wider would be the A7s.

The Video of the A7II

I am not a huge video guy and 96% of my use with the A7II and A7s will be for photo purposes but the A7s and A7II have fantastic video quality from what I have seen, better with the A7II due to the in camera 5 Axis IS. Shooting video with the 16-35 Zeiss was awesome as it stabilized the lens in a way that made the video appear almost steadycamish. NO shakes or jitters, just smooth video.

Some have complained about artifacts in the video but in my short and limited use, I saw no such things. Nothing that would bother me in the slightest. Then again, if I were making a full length pro feature film, I would be using something besides a mirrorless camera to shoot it. If you want the low down on the video I suggest searching the video sites such as eoshd.com. 

Even so, my humble little video using the A7II is below. It is a hodge lodge of nonsense just to show how the 5 Axis works, and you can see just how well it works when I attach the Leica 50 Noctilux to the A7II and then the A7S. The A7S video is much more shaky where the A7II video is smooth and silky.

Video test of the 5 Axis IS and A7II along with a side by side with the A7s to show the difference 5 Axis makes for video

My Fave Accessories for the A7 II

With a new camera always comes new accessories, at least for me. I have to figure out what strap I want to use, what bag, what memory cards, what case (if any) and even things like shutter soft releases and items that sort of pimp out my cameras. Below is a list of the things I will be using with my A7II and things I already have on my A7s:

STRAPS: My most used straps these days are the Street Strap Long (available HERE) and when I want to get serious, the MoneyMaker from HoldFastGear.com. BTW, The Street Strap has outlasted my expensive Artisan and Artist silk strap which was messed up within one week.

SOFT RELEASE: Amazing soft release for Any A7 camera? The Artisan Obscura Sticky Back release is beautiful. One has been on my A7s since I got it and it has never fallen off. I love these as they will not come off or come loose. Check them out here. 

TACTILE: I attached these little metal buttons to my A7s and love them. They give the camera a better tactile feel when button hunting and works on the A7 or mostly all digital cameras. You can check them out at rluther.com 

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BAG: My favorite bag EVER. The Wotancraft Ryker. Black or Brown, either one is GORGEOUS. My review is HERE.

WRIST STRAP: The nicest wrist strap I have used lately is from Classic Cases. It’s high quality leather and super comfortable. You can see them or order them HERE.  I have one of these attached to the A7II and a Street Strap on my A7s.

MEMORY CARDS: I use a Transcend 64GB and it has been reliable, fast and it was affordable. It is a 60MBPS card and you can nab one on Amazon for under $34. I bought FIVE. 

BATTERIES: I saved some cash and bought a few of these Vivitar replacements as they are cheaper and work just as well as the Sony branded batteries. THIS is the exact deal I bought..TWO batteries, a charger, a rocket blower , lens brush and cloth..all for $24.95. THIS is a steal! Just to verify, these are the A7 batteries and will work in the A7, A7r, A7s and A7II.

LEICA M ADAPTER: My #1 recommended adapter for Leica M lens use is the Voigtlander Close Focus adapter. To me, it is the best made, and allows for close focus. No lens play, just a solid locking connection. I bought mine from Cameraquest.com. 

NIKON S/CONTX RF ADAPTER: Picked up one of these new Adapters and was impressed with the quality and the fact that I can now use Nikkor S mount RF lenses on the A7 series. These are fantastic well made TINY lenses and can be found at great prices. Get it HERE.

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OFFICIAL SONY BATTERY GRIP (above) – This grip is all new for the A7II as the old one will not work. This is a weather sealed grip built to a pro standard and when it is on the camera, it feels like a PRO camera. It makes the camera much larger of course but also doubles the battery life. If I were to buy this I would only use it on heavy days when I needed lots of battery life. The price seems steep to me at $349 but some of you LOVE your battery grips, so Sony is offering this one for the A7II (and possibly whatever comes next to replace the A7r). You can order the grip HERE.

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JB WOODEN GRIP (above): JB has released a new wooden grip for the A7II. You can order it here for under $70

A7II – ISO 6400, Zeiss 35 2.8, OOC JPEG. It was dark! – ZERO Noise Reduction!

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My Favorite Lenses for the A7II, Native and otherwise

I often get e-mails asking me..”what is the best lens for XXXX” – I get this question day in and day out. Truth be told, there is no “best” lens as what lens you choose depends on what you like to shoot! Me, I have always been a 35 and 50 guy and I love fast primes. Even so, the Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 SHINES on the A7II, more so than it did on any other A7 body. Same goes for the 55 1.8. No idea why the is but others have noticed it as well.

These two lenses are my go to lenses when I want AF, and reliable performance.

The Sony 35 2.8 Can be seen HERE

The Sony 55 1.8 Can be seen HERE

Other lenses I adore with the A7s and A7II are the Voigtlander 35 1.2, the Leica Noctilux 0.95, the Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar ZM, the Zeiss 50 f/2 Planar ZM and even the Voigtlander 21 1.8. 

So many lenses are amazing with these bodies, just choose what you enjoy the most and have at it! If you are unsure you can always rent lenses from lensrentals.com.

PopFlash.com also has deals on Leica M glass most of the time.

16-35 Zeiss at f/4

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The Shutter Sound of the A7II

Many people were not happy with the loud shutter of the original A7R. In fact, it is the loudest of all A7 cameras. The A7II takes it down a notch from the A7R and is pretty much the same as the A7. My A7II is a bit more subdued though and sounds a little more muted than my A7s. While it does not have the silent shutter of the A7s, the shutter sound never caused me one issue when shooting street, portraits or anything. Below is my video showing the shutter sound of MY A7s and the A7II I have on hand.

A few more words about the Leica Noctilux with the A7II (or any A7 body)

I am a lucky guy and thanks to Ken Hansen, who has been part of this site since day 1 (Ken is a legendary Leica dealer with over 50 years experience) by helping me to get it going, I was recently able to obtain a Leica Noctilux again after selling off my last one 1 1/2 years ago due to needing funds more than the lens.

It has been a year and half since I shot with the Noctilux on the Leica M 240 (see a post here) and while it is always a magical lens and what I call a “Lifetime Lens”, it is a lens that is not only hard to justify for mere mortals, it is a lens that is so unique it may be the most lusted after rangefinder lens in history. It is a controversial lens due to the cost where half of the people never understand it and the other half 100% do.

The draw and rendering of this lens is nothing short of breathtaking in the right circumstances, something that is not easy to achieve every time you use it but one thing is for sure, when you DO use this lens it will deliver a WOW rendering that most non camera people will rave over. But be careful, overuse will make it boring after a while so use it sparingly. Bring it out once a month or so and it will retain that wow factor.

From the f/0.95 aperture to the legendary Leica build to the shallow and dreamy depth of field as well as the rich color and contrast, this is a lens that can deliver deep emotion. At $11,000 it is a hard one to swallow and is quite ridiculous in pricing IMO. Even so, I love it, I adore it and I hope that I can keep this one (and plan to). Seeing friends like Ashwin Rao who still has his original Noctilux (also from Ken Hansen) and still loving it makes me feel lucky to own one again.

On the A7II you will get 3 Axis IS with manual Leica M lenses, still a wonderful IS system that helps eliminate the shakes. (same as the Olympus E-M10 which uses 3 Axis IS). Just set the A7II menu to 50mm and shoot away!

Also, Anyone who shoots this lens on the M or the A7 series I HIGHLY recommend the Variable ND filter for it (Ken Hansen has loads of them). Best ND I have ever used and allows wide open aperture in full sunlight which gives an altogether different effect. You can contact Ken at [email protected] and ask him about it. Tell him I sent ya!

A few more images from the combo of Noct and A7II are below…

PS – The Leica M and Noct will cost you $19k. The A7II and Noct will set you back $12500 or so. Insane I know, and it is NOT for everyone but just showing that you can save some cash by using it on the A7 bodies. Keep this lens for 7 years or more and you will make money if you ever decide to sell it. It IS one of the rare lenses that can indeed be considered a true investment. For example I bought a brand new F/1 Noctilux long before the 0.95 was released. I paid $3500 from B&H Photo. NEW. Today I see them going for $8000 if new in the box or true mint with box. Amazing. In 10 years the f/0.95 may be up to $18k or more. You never know, but Leica lenses have a history of appreciating over the years.

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The three images below had filters applied using VSCO film filters – B&W is not a problem for the A7II ;) 

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As you can see, the combo of Noctilux and the A7II seriously rocks. These were all wide open at f/0.95. When you stop down to f/1.4 you get the performance of a Leica Summilux ASPH. Stop down to f/2 and you get the performance of a Summicron but with the added benefit of the 50 APO colors, and the contrast of the Noctilux. To me, the Noctilux beats the old F/1 version handily.

The Bokeh of this lens is legendary, the stuff of fantasy and dreams. I have seen some pretty special photos with this lens when in super  talented hands. Get the light right, the mood right and the scene right and masterpieces can be made with this lens.

Things about the A7II that I wish would have been different

The A7II is one hell of a camera, and again, my “Camera of the Year 2014″ but it is not perfect. Yes, the IQ is stunning. Yes, the 5 Axis IS is wonderful. Yes, the color saturation and depth of the 24 MP sensor is fantastic. Yes, the fact that so many lenses can be used and mounted is awesome. Yes, the new design and beefy build is welcomed and yes the video is stellar. Yes, you can shoot at ISO 8000 and up to 12,800 and get usable results.

But if I could make a change or two the 1st would be to the BATTERY. The battery life is not so hot with the A7II and seems worse than it does with my A7s. It uses the same battery as the previous A7 series but with the new 5 Axis IS being used, it seems that the battery life is even shorter. I found I needed a couple of batteries for a full day of shooting, and I am a light shooter. If you get the A7II I suggest buying 2 or 3 extra batteries. I bought 3-4 Vivitar branded batteries for mine off of Amazon and saved a bundle while getting batteries that work just as well as the Sony branded batteries. The link to the Vivitar batteries is HERE and what a deal it is. Just click it and see what you get for under $25..it’s amazing.

So it seems the battery should have been made better. The Nikon Df battery is awesome and I wish Sony would develop something similar.

Also, I wish the A7II had the silent shutter of the A7s. I use it every now and again and while it is not mandatory it does help sometimes when you need ultimate silence.

One last thing…if the Auto Focus was maybe 15% faster it would be hard it fault at all. As it is, the Af may hunt in low light (The A7s does not) but the good news is that the Auto Focus is CRAZY accurate. I have never gotten a false AF hit with the A7II (but did a few times with the A7 and A7r). In low light it is much faster than the old A7 but not up to the A7s for low light AF. Still, its just as good if not better as most mirrorless cameras that are out these days. I have been testing the Fuji X100T and it has been frustrating the hell out of me with its constant AF misses (though the camera says it is locked). The A7II never has this issue.

The A7II and Sony Zeiss 16-35, a SUPERB wide angle for your A7 body.

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The Sony A7II vs the Leica M 240. 

Many have asked me this question lately and it is not an easy one to answer. The M 240 is a special camera with a special build, feel, emotion AND price. Coming in at $7k (deals can be had) and limited in high ISO and close focus and video use, it is mainly for those who want and love to shoot a rangefinder. The RF system makes the Leica M a 100% different camera to shoot than just about ANYTHING out there today.

The M feels fantastic, one of the best feeling cameras made today. The battery life is amazing, and the quality is superb. But, compared to the A7II, I feel the A7II can give better image quality, better color, and even more detail with 85% of Leica M lenses. Plus, the A7II beats the M in low light as well. Video? Sony 100%, no question. At the end of the day the Sony has a better sensor than the custom made one in the M 240.

All in all I find the only thing the M has over the A7II is the user experience and shooting ultra wide Leica branded coded M glass such as the 18, 21, Tri Elmar, etc. . Shooting an RF camera is a wonderful thing..a state of mind..an inspiration and brings passion into my shooting. I get some of this with the A7II but not as much.

At the end of the day, $1600 for an A7II that puts out better IQ and color and has more versatility is a steal compared to the $7000 M. Even so, I love the M. Always will. This is something that is personal preference and only you can decide. Have the cash? Buy both :) Bank account suffering after the holidays? Buy an A7II and know you ill be getting image quality that actually surpasses the Leica M in good light, low light, high ISO, low ISO, with much better video capabilities (if that’s your thing). I am not knocking the M at all, but I always speak the truth and 2 years after the M 240 arrived, we now have a camera from Sony that literally kicks its bootie in most areas, for 1/5th the cost.

Even so, the M will always have a place in my heart as it provides a “connection” to the user. It’s a thing of beauty.

Night time, Sony A7II and Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 – No issues focusing!

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The Sony A7II Vs the Fuji X-T1

Here there really is no contest for me. I like the X-T1. I feel it is as good as it gets for Fuji, but for me, many of you know that I dislike the X-Trans sensor. The IQ from that sensor excels in perfect lighting but in anything other than that, it fails. You lose punch, sparkle, depth, color, and pop. You gain flatness and a dull sheen. I have seen 10’s of thousands of Fuji images and I have seen some that blew me away (perfect light, natural or studio) and most, around 95%, are flat and dull to me. They are “nice” but lack depth and punch and seeing that the Fuji uses an APS-C sensor you will also lose out on other things such as using 3rd party lenses to their full potential.

For me there is no contest here, if I were offered a Sony A7II at $1698 or a Fuji X-T1 at $499 I would splurge for the Sony. The Sony is $500 more than the Fuji ($1698 vs $1198) for the body only but I always say “you get what you pay for” and this is usually 99% true. I’d rather spend the extra $500 and be 100% happy then spend $500 less and wonder “what if”. I have learned that lesson in life many years ago.

With that said, the Fuji X-T1 is fantastic, and I feel Fuji’s best mirrorless to date. It’s fast, looks great, feels great, has great controls and some wonderful lenses. But when directly comparing, for me, I prefer the A7II in every way from build, feel, IQ, abilities, lenses that can be used, and so on.

To those that love their X-T1 that is awesome, as it can indeed put out some beautiful colors and images but for me, full frame will win out due to DR, Punch, Pop, etc. If there were no full frame Sony mirrorless, then the Fuji would be near the top of the heap but with the A7II and A7s, the Fuji drops below them for me.

You can read my X-T1 review HERE.  As you can see, I raved about it as Fuji got it right and it is something that will make any Fuji fan proud.

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The Sony A7II vs the Olympus E-M1

Another AMAZING camera even two years after its release. The E-M1 is the pro grade Micro 4/3 and does just about everything right. The body is awesome, the feel is superb, the controls just work and the speed of this thing is impressive. The lenses available are 2nd to none and it was the 1st camera with 5 Axis inside. It’s a jewel for sure and many poo poo’ed it due to the smaller sensor but this sensor in the E-M1 easily stands toe to toe with any APS-C sensor around except for low light ability. The one main weakness of the E-M1 these days is the high ISO performance which lacks. Shoot in low light at ISO 3200 and you will get noise. Low light is a great test for high ISO and while many reviewers test it in studio light (which is silly) the real test is using it when you would need it..low light. So the E-M1 falls short for low light work when compared to most modern day cameras.

Compared to the A7II you are saving $300 with an E-M1 (not much) but losing the full frame sensor, better high ISO capability and all that comes with this such as DR, less noise at base ISO, etc. To me, these two are much closer than the Fuji X-T1 and A7II as the E-M1 is one of my all time faves. I still own one. Will take a lot for anything to get me  to remove it from my collection. Even so, I can get more use, better IQ and color, and better low light and DR from the A7II for $300 more. I feel the E-M1 may need to see a price reduction to $999 in the very near future. Will be interesting to see what Olympus comes up with in 2015.

The Sony A7II vs the Sony A7r

The A7r has not yet been replaced and Sony may be pairing down the A7 system to the A7 and A7s and creating a “pro” A9 to replace the A7r. Of course this is speculation as I know nothing at all about what is to come but rumors have been pointing to this.

If choosing today I would take the A7II over the A7r, 100%. No contest.

The A7r is clunky, loud, slower, worse in low light, no IS inside, has inferior AWB and color performance, and has too many MP when they are not needed for 99.5% of people. Every aspect of the II beats the R for me, all of it. The body, the performance, the IS, the video, the experience.

The II is more responsive and again, quieter. The R is the loudest of all A7 bodies (no, they are not all the same).

So to those who asked which one I would go for, the answer is clear. The one I did go for over the R, the A7II. It’s a more finished product and more enjoyable in real world use.

A7II vs the A7s

As for which camera I will use more, my A7s or A7II, that is hard to say as I love both. I see myself using the A7s in the low light scenarios or when I need the silent shutter. The A7II puts out such beautiful images in normal light that I may prefer it for my day to day shooting as it has slightly more oomph to the final image (though not a huge difference). Add in the 5 Axis, pro beefy build and feel and it bumps the A7s from daily driver to 2nd fiddle. Both have a place in my bag. The cool thing is the A7II is $1698 vs the $2498 of the A7s. That is quite the price difference so for new buyers I say go A7II. I own both and love both but if buying one it would be the A7II for me.

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Pros and Cons of the Sony A7II

PROS (for me)

  1. Fantastic build, better ergonomics than old A7
  2. Button placement much better than previous A7
  3. 5 Axis IS really works well (for video as well)
  4. Video is stepped up from A7
  5. Weather Sealed
  6. Can mount almost any lens made for 35mm (this is huge)
  7. Improved color, pop, and overall IQ over A7
  8. Faster AF and overall response than A7
  9. Nice detail and sharpness
  10. Improved OOC JPEGS means you could shoot this as a JPEG camera!
  11. PRICE! $1698 is a GREAT buy. No one can say this is overpriced.
  12. Same great EVF/LCD from previous A7 bodies.
  13. Makes a great 2nd camera to a Leica M or A7s
  14. Still smaller than the smallest DSLR’s, MUCH smaller than a D800 style camera
  15. More Sony Native lenses (and primes) on the way in 2015!
  16. Still usable images at ISO 12,800, which is fantastic.
  17. Sony/Zeiss 35 and 55 seem to take on a new life on this camera for some reason.
  18. Worlds 1st full frame with 5 Axis IS!

CONS (for me)

  1. Battery life is disappointing. Needs a better battery. 250-350 shots per charge. Should be 1000.
  2. No silent shutter that is in the A7s – Boo.
  3. In really low light AF slows down. My A7s is faster in low light.
  4. Still no go for ultra wide Leica M mounts such as Voigtlander 15. Color issues with these lenses.
  5. Can have Moire in certain situations as the sensor is VERY detailed and has loads of resolution (but rare)

Sony/Zeiss 16-35 – crisp and clean – This is a stellar wide angle zoom besting my old Canon 16-35 from back in the day, easily. 

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My Final Word on the Sony A7II

Sony is just hitting it out of the park lately (last 2-3 years)  – The RX1, the RX100, the RX1R, the A7 and now the A7s and A7II are all superb cameras that are pushing the tech and the experience up a notch compared to anyone else. It’s pretty amazing what they have done over the last 3 years.

When the original A7 bodies were released I spoke with Sony about their passion for this project. Basically, I was told they are not holding back and will be pushing forward to develop this system, lenses and all, for the long haul. They have many lenses on the way in 2015 (and ten lenses already for the FE full frame A7 system within a years time)  and it appears they are just getting started. I had the feeling that this was their baby..the one they were banking on (instead of DSLR production) and from my experience, it is working.

The Sony A series update cycle seems to be on a 12-15 month thing right now since it has been just over a year since the A7 and we now have the A7II. I am guessing the A7r replacement will be the rumored “Pro A9″ but believe me when I say it will be much more expensive and have a larger MP count. Many may want to hold out for that one even though right now it is all speculation and rumor (and no, I know nothing). Rumors say Feb 2015.

I was a fan of the A7 and A7r but did not buy one for myself after much thought. The things that held me back were slower than expected AF in low light, a teeny bit of clunkiness and in the case of the R, too noisy of a shutter and too high of a MP count for my tastes. When the A7s arrived I was in heaven as it solved these issues and became the most capable camera I have ever owned or shot with. The A7s, for me, was and is a game changer in the world of mirrorless photography and I am fine with nits 12 MP resolution as it does all I will ever need.

With the A7II Sony has done it again, and damn them! When a company releases a camera that is so good it motivates me to go out every day and shoot, then they have done something right. In 2014 it was a slow year IMO for stellar camera releases. Even the Fuji X100T failed to excite me (AF misses, X Trans Sensor, same old same old). The Panasonic LX100 failed to ignite the passion in me (massive lens flare issues, mushy details). It was not until the Sony A7s and now A7II that my passion was kickstarted in 2014. Passion, motivation and endless possibilities are what these cameras brought me. Sony is costing me more money…Ugh.

No one NEEDS a camera upgrade if you have one that works well already. I did not NEED an A7II as I have a few other cameras already. But when I saw what it could do, how it did it and the endless creative possibilities with it, I knew I WANTED it and the last few weeks have been so much fun discovering what this camera can do. To me, the price of the camera already was worth it for the joy it has brought and the many memories I created with it. Could I have done this with the A7s? Probably, but having the extra punch and 5 Axis in the A7II is what sold me. If and when the Pro A9 comes out looks like I will have THREE Sony cameras as long as it is not some crazy 50+ MP sensor.

The most impressive thing to me about the A7 series in general, especially the A7s and A7II is the fact that not only can we use so many cool lenses on these bodies to the lenses full potential, but now they are ALL stabilized with the internal 5 Axis IS. THIS is impressive and many blow it off as it is nothing, but to me and many others it is a HUGE deal. Many like to trash Sony because they just hate the name Sony. Many will never give this camera chance because they are stuck on Leica, Canon, Nikon, etc. That is the wrong way to look at it as the A7II is one hell of a camera. IN fact ,when I tested a Nikon D810 lately I found the Af to be OK (missed some shots), the body much too large and fat, and the weight an issue. The A7II performed just as well for me in every situation and did so while remaining light, small and with that 5 Axis IS. Again, a pretty big deal. The ability to throw on a tiny Leica 50 Summicron or Summilux, something that you can not do on a DSLR is quite amazing as well.

Yes you can do this on a Fuji but the results are MUCH different when dealing with APS-C as you will not use the entire lens so the lens character goes out the window. Overall, the A7II is a fantastic update and well worth the $1698 price tag. Doesn’t get any better for this price, period.

2014 may have been a slow camera year but Sony came in and snuck this one in last minute. For me, nothing else released in 2014 betters it. To me, this is what I would have called the “ULTIMATE DIGITAL CAMERA” just 6 years ago. Today, I still feel it is just that and I can only imagine what Sony has up their sleeves.

I highly recommend the A7II. I had no issues with it besides the sucky battery life. Everything else is beautiful from the buttons, dials and ergonomics (for me), 5 Axis and IQ. 

No matter if you want to shoot the native AF lenses, Leica M mount lenses, funky mount lenses or anything in between the A7II is going to bring you beautiful image quality, fantastic low light ability, super nice video and pretty fast and responsive (but not the best) AF. Bravo yet again to Sony. I can not wait to see what lies ahead for 2015 as I expect the A7r replacement and near the end of 2015 an S replacement.

I will go ahead and say it…I have been reviewing cameras for 7 years. This Sony A7II is the most versatile, fantastic, useful and all around best priced for what you get camera I have ever reviewed. Bam! I also feel that the review image samples here are among the best quality I have put in ANY of my reviews in those 7 years. 

You can buy the Sony A7II at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE. My two #1 recommended Sony dealers. 

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A few more images below, 1st three should be from the Zeiss 16-35 with the 2nd one at ISO 12,800 outside at night…

ZERO NOISE REFUCTION

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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 7 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 dedicated 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, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

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, in money and time. 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!

Dec 242014
 

My Favorite Camera Shops & Dealers. Ever.

There are so many camera shops, store, internet sites and dealers out there ready to take our cash and send us a new fresh box of happiness. If you are like me, receiving a new package from the Fed Ex or UPS man brings  not only a smile, but a rush of energy, happiness and joy.

I love my cameras and over the last 20 years I have learned WHERE To buy from to get the most hassle free and enjoyable experience, as well as the best deals sometimes.

I always get e-mails asking me “where should I buy XXX camera”? Well, here you go. These shops are also site sponsors because I accepted them as sponsors (I turn down many every year). 

Over the years I have recommended the same dealers here. Those that I have worked with and bought from on many occasions. I have shopped from a few other sources but sometimes have had a negative experience so this is why I only recommend those who I trust and those who have really went above and beyond. I only allow advertisers and sponsors whom I trust and support back and know would never rip anyone off.

Look what the USPS man drug in..direct from Ken Hansen. The Leica Monochrom in silver chrome and the new M-P in black. 

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Below is a list of whom I buy from, who I have had great experiences with and all of those that I trust and put my name behind when it comes to camera dealers and shops!

1. Ken Hansen – This guy is everything LEICA. He has been a Leica dealer forever and used to own a store in NY. He now works from his home as he is semi-retired but his Leica business is still going strong with many Leica shooters praising his name every day. Ken has become a legend..legendary. I have never in my life experienced anything like Ken from ANY shop, dealer or store, ever. He goes above and beyond and the funny thing is he does not even have a web site, a Facebook or twitter ;) He runs it all from his home via phone or e-mail. He has been with me since day one and you may have seen his ad in the sidebar before. It will be there for the life of the site because if it not for Ken (and a couple of other friends) this site may not have made it!

Ken has new Leica and often times has used items and unique items as well. Just call him at 212-879-3263 or send him an e-mail at [email protected] and let him know what you want, need or are looking for. Most likely, he will have it. Plus, mention my name and you may get a bit of a deal..maybe. I stand 100% behind Ken Hansen.

2. B&H PhotoThese guys are the king of Retail and Online sales. They do MASSIVE volume. I mean MASSIVE. I have been to the store and it is a sight to see. Hundreds of customers at any given time, long lines to check out (but they go fast) and conveyer belts that travel through the store to deliver your goods when you exit. Amazing. They have the best online experience I have encountered. First, if an item is in stock and ready to ship, it says so clearly. If it is not, it clearly states this. No guessing games. They ship same day as well if you order before a certain cut off time. So technically you could order a lens on a Monday morning and have it arrive Tuesday. They also are top notch on their returns, undo nay to Amazon. It is an online automated process, never needing to email someone or call someone for an RA number. B&H Is the king of camera retailers. You can see their site here and they sell all kinds of goodies, not just photo related. They are sort of a giant electronics megastore. I give them a 100%!

3. Amazon- Who does not shop from Amazon? Myself and everyone I know shop at Amazon and they are doing amazing things..amazing. Amazon is the future of internet shopping, food shopping and everything in between. I believe in 10 years Amazon will have the most amazing services. You can get anything and everything from Amazon. I have certain household items get delivered every month using their subscribe and save feature and I also buy tons of music (LP’s) and camera accessories such as Gariz cases, caps, batteries, lights, etc. They have anything and everything. Click here for a link to Amazon and see for yourself. Never an issue with them, ever! The return policy and process is painless and simple. You even get a label to print for easy return. My score = 100%!

4. PopFlash.com - PopFlash has been around for a long long time and Tony Rose is the man who owns and runs it. He is well-known among Leica shooters but he also sells Fuji, Olympus, Zeiss and many other brands at his online shop. I have purchased Leica lenses, cameras and Artisan and Artist bags and cases from PopFlash and Tony always comes through. They have some superb prices as well and when you see the “used/mint” pricing on some Leica items you may be super tempted to go for it. Check out the site at PopFlash.com! 100%

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5. The Pro Shop - These guys are great and know their stuff. They have years of experience and sell Leica, Nikon, and even the Hasselblad Stellar and Lunar line. They have so much to choose from so here is where I would go for not only the best camera brands but for some of the best advice and experience. 100% for these guys as well! You can call them for info at 561-253-2606 or see their website HERE.

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6. CAMERAQUEST - Run by Stephen Gandy this long time Voigtlander dealer has just about anything you could ever want from the brand. There are a few Voigtlander lenses that stick out to me and some I like better than Leica glass! The 35 1.2 II, the 15 4.5, the 50 1.5 Nokton, all superb and all a fraction of the cost of a Leica lens. If you want a great buy and fast shipping on Voigtlander lenses then you must check out CAMERAQUEST! 100%! Check out the shopping site HERE!

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7. Leica Store Miami – These guys are in actuality Dale Photo in Florida, but this site is much improved and all about LEICA. This shop has it all from cameras, lenses, cases, accessories and even used Leica cameras and lenses. I bought my fancy Leica case from them and my shipment arrived in one day. You must check them out! I give them an easy 100%. Never an issue. Never a problem. You can see their site HERE. 

As you can see, all six shops/dealers get a full 100% from me because I would not recommend anyone who I did not shop with, buy from or feel 100% about. If I was 90% I would not recommend them! If you buy from ANY of the above dealers you will not be disappointed. With Amazon, if you have an issue the return policy is so good you can just return it. No questions asked. Just be sure to buy from Amazon and not a third-party (or prime). Same with B&H and some of the others. For me it should be about customer satisfaction and all of these do it very well.

So there you go, my fave dealers and vendors. When you want to buy a camera or lens or accessory or ANYTHING, check them out! They are what help to keep this site running!

Dec 232014
 

Merry Christmas To All!

Hello and good morning to all! It’s just a day before Christmas Eve which means I will be taking it easy over the next couple of days so this means there may not be many posts between now and December 26th. I will still be here and will be working on my A7II review but I will be heading up to a log cabin in Northern Arizona for the next few days to enjoy the Holidays with family.

I hope everyone here is having a fantastic holiday week! I will be posting a couple of articles over the next 3 days and hope to have my full A7II review up by December 29th, 1st thing.

Below is a shot or two I snapped inside a bar last night that fills its interior and exterior with thousands of lights for Christmas. I felt it was the perfect opportunity for the Noctilux f/0.95. So what you see below is using the Noctilux wide open inside the bar, which was only lit with these lights.

Happy holidays to all and thanks for helping make 2014 another great year for SteveHuffPhoto.com!

Below, three shots OOC from the A7II and Leica Noctilux at 0.95. This lens turns reality into dreamland ;) Thanks to Ken Hansen for the lens!

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Dec 222014
 

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Sixty Weddings with a Leica M 240

by Joeri van der Kloet

Hello to all of you! Thanks Steve for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers again. I’ve posted a couple of times on shooting weddings with a rangefinder, but I thought it would be nice to give you an update.

I’m quite sure I’m a lucky person. 2014 was a crazy year and it’s not over yet. I just kept getting emails from people who were getting married and asking about availability. It was a very busy, yet immensely rewarding year. With an ever-increasing competition among (wedding) photographers this is something I don’t take for granted. I have found that staying true to the way I work does pay off. I don’t stage anything besides the group portraits and I shoot real moments only. Just snapshots of beautiful moments. Nothing more, nothing less. Sometimes my clients tell me it felt like I was just one of the guests, who happened to be there with a funny little camera. The M helps in this approach with its modest proportions, but behavior is just as important. I wear a suit if that’s the dress code, I mingle with the other guests and even my camera bag fits in. It may seem like just common sense, but you’ll be surprised how often this is forgotten.
Besides my documentary wedding work, the number of customers for my workshops are growing. Lots of rangefinder users are interested in the way I use my camera and they’re especially interested in my focussing training techniques. I really love this work, because I can help people to get more fun with their cameras.

In the last two years I’ve shot 60 weddings with my Leica M240 and although I already reviewed this camera here before, let me give you an update after many hours of shooting.
After having shot around seventy weddings with my M9s, a few years ago, I had gotten used to this camera. While I was on a four months journey around the world, I heard about the new M and I was quite excited, but also in doubt. A CMOS sensor? Liveview? Video? Seriously? Like most of you, the first pictures we saw that were taken with the new flagship were somewhat disappointing. Soon after that, the CCD vs CMOS discussion took off. And we’re still having this discussion today. Of course I also read about red skin tones, the lack of ‘crisp’, ‘pop’ and ‘3D’. However I also read that the M240 featured 2 extra stops in ISO sensitivity, a more silent shutter and a better responsiveness in general. For me, the increase in ISO sensitivity was enough to spend the 6300 Euros and start working with it.

The number one reason for me to work with the M240 instead of the M9 is ISO. I’ve really needed those two extra stops for low light circumstances. Even with a fast 35/1.2 I have used the highest ISO setting quite a few times. Of course the wedding receptions are the hardest moments to capture. As a rule of thumb I can freeze people who are dancing at 1/90th and at 1/60th, even though it will start to get slightly fuzzy, the look is very moody. People that are dancing slowly can be shot at 1/15th and still be sharp enough. By the way, sharpness is never my main concern. Emotion has top priority, then composition and only then sharpness. Flash is no option as far as I’m concerned, since I try to be as unobtrusive as possible. So for ISO only, I’d choose the M240.
Next is overall responsiveness. The M9 has a somewhat gritty shutter button, while the M240 has a clear two-step shutter button. The shutter itself is more silent and lacks the whining noise of the M9. Button wise, the M240 is more responsive, although I have heard people complaining about the start-up time. With my M, I have no problems with that and whenever I use my M9, it feels slower to respond on the buttons. Handling wise, I prefer the M9, simply because it significantly lighter. Don’t underestimate these 100 grams. You will notice the difference.

Much has been said about the M9 screen. Yes, it’s a joke, but it never troubled me. It was good enough to browse through the menu, check my histogram and check composition. If you’d want to check for sharpness, forget it. Though the M240 is not very good for checking for sharpness either (just compare it to the 5D3: now that works!) it’s a lot better than the M9.
But then the menus: I prefer the M9, simply because it’s more intuitive and easier to work with than the M240. Also, setting the ISO on the M9 triggers a clever menu: by clicking down you’ll increase one stop and by clicking to the right you increase your ISO with ⅓ of a stop.

Then there is the live view. First I thought I’d never use it on the M240. When I started using it, I discovered some benefits of this system. It always works, no matter how dark it is, whereas the EVF might get so dark that it’s almost too hard to focus. Live view also provides a way for very precise focussing. The drawback is that live view is very laggy. For me, during action it’s unusable, but for more static subjects it’s great. It’s also great for checking if your rangefinder is still calibrated properly. I do not use it a lot, but I wouldn’t want to miss it in a next M.

Battery life of the M240 is very good. With my two M9s I used to carry six batteries to a wedding. Now two is enough. So that compensates for the increase in weight of the camera itself. Sort of.

Issues then. The M9 has had quite a few and one more recent issue can be added to the camera: corrosion of the sensor. While the M240 has had its share of bad luck, it seems to be problem free at this moment.

The most important feature of a camera however, is its output and that’s what most people are talking about. It’s the CCD versus the CMOS. Yes, the files are different and everyone had to get used to these new files, myself included. Technically, the M240 files are superior: they have more dynamic range, less noise and they’re just more flexible. The issue with the skin tones has been fixed, though it never bothered me much. The M240 needs a little more punch than the M9 files: increasing the contrast a little is usually a good thing. For me, I’m really happy with the output the M240 delivers. Of course, you’ll have to shoot in raw, just like with the M9. Where the M9 really shines is base ISO. Those images, where light is good and focus is spot on are almost unbeatable. But as a pro I don’t shoot on base ISO that much. I don’t get to choose the light on a wedding and often it is dim, or very contrasty. So what do I want? Low noise high ISO and flexible files with a good dynamic range. And that’s what the M240 delivers. If you’re shooting in other circumstances and you don’t need to make any money with your camera, I can perfectly understand why you’d prefer the M9 over the M240. In fact, I still have my M9-P which I will keep as long as possible.

Maybe you don’t even need to make a choice between the M9 and M240. When I switched to the M-system, the M9 was the only full frame compact camera body in the world. Lots has changed. Sony has made the full frame compact system camera accessible for a much bigger group of people with the A7 series. I have seen many great reports about the A7 and A7s. Steve here rated his A7s as his number one camera! On the other hand: DSLRs have acquired features that make them more interesting for the documentary approach as well. The Canon 5D3 for instance, is just as silent as the M240 in its silent mode. Also, its AF-system is a lot better than the 5D2, which makes the 5D3 a pretty good smallish, silent camera for the documentary wedding pro. For me, I just like the way the M-system works with its simple lay out and its intuitive controls. I wouldn’t want to change that. Also, my M is my best marketing tool ever. Whether I like it or not, it sells.

So, in conclusion, can we finally say which camera is better? No, we can’t, because image quality should be one of the most important factors in deciding which camera to buy and this image quality can’t be described in numbers and sometimes not even in words. I just wanted to explain why I still prefer the M240 over the M9 after having read the renewed CCD vs CMOS discussion. Whatever camera you buy, get the one you can afford and just shoot with it. That’s what they’re meant for.

My wedding website: www.luta.nl
My workshop website: www.joerivanderkloet.com

and now, the photos!

1 Magical moment. The couple started dancing on our tiny boat on the Amsterdam canals. The sun came through and I just knew I had the best job in the world. With 28 Elmarit.

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2 The dance. They just kept dancing on this wedding and everybody had such a good time. Very low light, but I think I nailed it on 3200 ISO on 1.2 at 1/125th with the terrific CV35/1.2.

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3 Bride getting ready. I love to use whatever there is available for natural framing. With the small but very good 35 cron.

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4 The car. This bride just loved the classic Porsche 911 the groom arranged for their wedding. And it even worked with the dress. Shot with the CV35/1.2.

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5 Intimate moment during one of the speeches. I’m constantly looking for these moments. With the 50 cron, my workhorse.

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6 Waiting for the groom. While the bride was peeking through the window, this dog jumped on a chair and started peeking as well. I couldn’t have been happier of course. CV35/1.2.

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7 The vows. This was an intimate outdoor wedding and the couple had ordered birds made out of paper from Japan as a styling detail. I decided to shoot the vows through this curtain of birds. With the tiny 28 Elmarit.

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8 Father and child having fun. Shot at 6400 ISO at 1.2 at 1/60th. Is it sharp? No, but it conveys the message. CV 35/1.2.

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9 Bride and groom and umbrellas. It was a rainy day and the couple moved from the wedding venue to the next venue. I liked this scene and shot it quickly. With the 35 cron.

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10 I noticed this little moment just after the ceremony between the bride and her daughter. Shot with the 50 cron.

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11 The moment after the kiss. Couples relax after all the offical things are done and you can tell by just looking at their faces. WIth the 28 Elmarit.

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12 Soap and sunshine. During the ceremony it was dark and rainy, but when the couple got out the weather had changed completely. They were hugging each other and I liked this scene with its warm colours and all the reflections on the bubbles. With the 28 Elmarit.

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13 The laugh. While returning from a group shot, the groom (probably) told a joke and the bride laughed out loud. I like the flare and the soft light as well. With the 50 cron.

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14 The cake. This lovely couple just had a terrific day and I love the little moment with this interaction between the newly weds. With the 50 cron.

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15 The look. The groom was listening very carefully while the bride was secretly looking at her husband-to-be. I love, love this light and the way the 50 cron renders the scene.

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16 Magic light. When the couple walked towards their car after the ceremony they literally stepped into a ray of light. Smooth, warm, just beautiful. And the 50 cron has no trouble in rendering this scene.

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17 Boy and car. When the groom went for a cup of coffee, the kid sneeked in the car, an Audi R8, and pretended to drive the car. I could hear him imitating engine sounds. With the 35 cron.

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18 Smooth. The CV 35/1.2 is not just a low light lens. It’s also suitable for getting this smooth look. I’m not sure who the bride was looking at, but I just like this shot.

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19 Friends. Well, this one doesn’t need any explanation. Best friends captured with the 50 cron.

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20 Getting ready. I like the expression of the bride and the soft light from the window. Shot with the 35 cron.

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21 The kiss. An intimate wedding with only twenty guests. Being able to mingle with guests is even more important than at big weddings. With the 35 cron.

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22 Almost ready. After many years of shooting I’m still surprised that my clients give me the opportunity to capture all these delicate moments. Here the bride, probably quite nervous and so beautiful in the last moments before she’ll meet her groom. With the CV 35/1.2

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23 Light from above. This couple lived on a boat with windows in the ceiling. When the groom stepped on board, the bride heard him and looked up, trying to get a glimpse of him through the window. Shot with the 35 cron.

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24 The quote. While we were heading out for a boat trip we came across this quote and I quickly focussed on it. The groom turned his head to read it and I took the shot. CV 35/1.2.

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25 Kiss me honey. The bride reaching for a kiss in a train somewhere in Rotterdam. With 28 Elmarit.

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26 The first look. It was very narrow and I didn’t have much space to shoot the couple during the first look. Luckily, there was a mirror. CV 35/1.2.

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27 Father and bride. Long after the wedding, this bride told me that this picture made her father cry. I’m still honoured she took the effort to tell me that. Shot with 50 cron.

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28 Kiss and dance. Working with a rangefinder in low light conditions can be hard, but also very rewarding. The couple loved this shot and so do I. CV 35/1.2.

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Dec 182014
 

Last Minute Photo Christmas Gift Ideas!

With only a week until Christmas day, I sure hope that most of you have completed your Christmas shopping! Me, I just started yesterday and finished today. Love shopping online as it is so easy these days  – avoiding the crowds, the parking lots, the stores…though I do find that to have some charm during this time of year. But this year I have been too busy to get to the mall and shop, so all of my shopping was done online at B&H Photo and Amazon.

If anyone out there is still looking for a nice camera gift for their Husband, Wife, Child or someone special, take a look at my list below of cool photo related items that would make for a fantastic Christmas gift this year! With the same day fast shipping from these online shops, getting the gift in time is not a problem.

How about a list of some cool small photo gifts that will put a smile on anyones face?

Tactile Feel? Check out these little buttons…

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I have a couple sets of these, one on my A7s and I love them. They provide a 100% tactile feel to the buttons and improve the feel and use. For $25 you can’t go wrong if you have been looking for something such as this!

Check out the website HERE.

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Want an awesome NON SCREW IN soft release for your Mirrorless? Artisan Obscura is the place to go!

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I have three of these and they STAY PUT. While I lost every screw in shutter soft release I have ever owned, these are the real deal and you will NOT lose them. Superb!

You can check them out HERE.

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How about a strap or two?

There are a couple that I like on Amazon and some are dirt cheap while being very well made and looking superb..

1. Vintage flower strap – wide – under $26

2. Street Strap LONG – I have three of these! 

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3. Braided Leather Barton strap! One of my all time faves!

4. The most amazing strap ever made for the serious photographer or working pro. The MONEYMAKER.

5. Also check out classicases.com as they have some cool new leather straps that I have on hand and LOVE

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How about small pocket cameras that are easy to use but give amazing image Quality?

B&H Photo has the Hasselblad Stellar’s in stock at 70% off

with the black carbon, white/white and orange in stock at $999. I own the Orange one and LOVE it. Been using it every day or two since getting it and it has gotten the most comments of any camera I have carried around with me to date. Plus, it’s a fantastic camera (Sony RX100) and made in Japan vs China of the Sony version. The style, looks, build, packaging and experience is top notch. Well worth the $1k for me as I have been enjoying it more than some $3k cameras I have had in the past.

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The Stellar is HERE at B&H Photo at 70% Blowout Pricing

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or if you want to save some cash, the Sony RX100 V1 is a tremendous value!

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You can buy the RX100 HERE at Amazon for just under $500

The resale of the Hasselblad Stellar will be much better than the Sony but they are basically the same camera (one made in Japan (stellar) and one in China (Sony) and have different cosmetics ad materials used in build. Still, IQ will be the same. RX100 Review is HERE.

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The Ricoh GR – A serious large sensor pocket camera for photographers

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The Ricoh GR is on blowout right now as well. This is a pro level IQ machine that fits in a pocket. Not as slick as the Sony but this is one that steps it up a notch with image quality due to the large sensor. With a fixed 28mm lens though, make sure the person who will be using it is OK with wide angle! My GR review is HERE!

Buy the Ricoh GR HERE at B&H while it is on special!

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Let’s take it up a notch..more performance but a bit larger..

Compact High Performance Cameras (Not quite pocketable)

The new Leica D-Lux (or Panasonic LX100)

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The new Leica D-Lux is actually a Panasonic LX100 in disguise. Much like the Hasselblad stellar situation, Leica places their outer shell on to the LX100 innards and call it their own. Same camera, same lens, same IQ as the cheaper LX100. With the Leica you get the Leica styling, packaging, red dot, better warranty and better software, so paying the extra $300 or so is worth it to many. Resale is also better with the Leica Panasonic versions and this  has been proven in the past.

The LX100 is under $900 HERE

The Leica D-Lux is $1200 HERE

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The Fuji X100T

The latest and (some will say) greatest X100 is the X100T. I have had one for 2-3 weeks and have been happy with it but to me it is pretty much like the previous S version with a new EVF feature that I actually do not like. In any case, it still uses the X Trans sensor which many love and it is a retro styled camera capable of beautiful images. If you have that retro vibe and want a camera to inspire, take a look at the X100T, prob my fave Fuji in production. Still small, and with a great 35m f/2 lens built right in. You can see my X100s review HERE.

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You can buy the X100T at Amazon, B&H Photo or PopFlash.com

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The Sony A6000

Probably the most bang for the buck APS-C large sensor mirrorless camera on the market today. The Sony A6000 is small, sleek, blazing fast (faster than most DSLRs) and can mount any Sony E mount lens or one of any THOUSANDS of lenses from almost any manufacturer using adapters. Great AF, great response, super video and an all around great camera for under $600 with lens. My review is HERE.

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You can buy the Sony A6000 at Amazon or B&H Photo

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..and finally, some more serious cameras for the real enthusiast…

The Sony A7s

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I LOVE this camera for quite a few reasons. You can read my review HERE if you like but the fact is that this guy is about as versatile as you can get.

1. Will shoot in ANY light. From light to dark. Will also AF in the dark with amazing accuracy. 

2. Best low light HIGH ISO camera made today in full frame 35mm.

3. Shoots fantastic video

4. File sizes stay small due to 12MP sensor. 

5. Can mount native E mount lenses or one of thousands of third-party lenses. M mount, S mount, Contax, Nikon, Canon, etc. 

6. Has a silent mode where you can not even tell it is being used or an image being taken, 100% silent.

7. Small and compact for a full frame camera. 

8 Again, did I say it can be used in ANY light?

This was my #1 camera and now is #2 ever since the next camera on the list showed up..

Buy the Sony A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo!

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The Sony A7 Mark II

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Now with 5 Axis image stabilization, tweaked and improved image quality, faster hybrid AF and fantastic pro level build and feel, the Sony A7II is a redesign and enhancement of one of 2014’s most popular cameras. I am finding the IQ to be better, the speed to be better, the IS to be amazing and the feel and build to be superb. It’s a beefy feeling camera. Solid.

The A7II is a versatile monster camera with stellar video and image performance. Again, mount some cool vintage RF glass for a unique experience and classic image quality results.

You can order the A7II at B&H Photo or Amazon

There are so many photo related items that would make superb gifts. NO way I can list them all but feel free to browse the online shops of Amazon, B&H Photo, PopFlash, Leica Store Miami, and the Pro Shop! All highly recommended dealers!

Dec 032014
 

The Great Venice Beach Fire of 2014

By Huss Hardan

Hello Steve and Brandon,

The night of Saturday, October 25 started off like most in Venice Beach, CA. Tourists, drunks, drunk tourists. The usual motley crew including yours truly. But then things changed with the smell of smoke. Now this wasn’t the usual smoke smell that wafts through the neighbourhood – due to 90% of the population suffering from glaucoma – but an acrid smell that warned of more serious events afoot. Something was on fire, so the normal reaction was to grab a camera and go take a look.
It was easy to track down, as I just followed the plumes of smoke, and the sound of sirens. A storage facility was the culprit, one that required 365 firemen to be summoned!

More at : http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20141026/venice-storage-fire-burns-for-14-hours-injures-eight-firefighters

It was quite the scene with moments of absurdity mixed in. One that sticks with me is the dood cycling through the fire trucks holding his munchies, without a care in the world! Ahh, Venice, don’t ever change!

I used a Leica M-E with Zeiss ZM 50mm Sonnar 1.5. All shots were at 1.5 and ISO 1250 1/125 sec . The intense strobe lights from the trucks made the auto meter go nuts – exposure readings flickering from 1/4000 to 1/30 sec, so I set it manually and stuck with that. As the Leica has an optical view finder, the viewing image was constant, but I wonder how an EVF would have coped with the strobe lights.

Peace out

Huss

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Nov 182014
 

Leica Sale: INSTANT Cash Discounts..here is the list..

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With the holidays coming even Leica is in the giving mood (sort of) – with $750 off on the Leica M 240 and $250 off of most lenses, this is a chance to save a little more on your new Leica lens purchases. Below are direct links to B&H Photo and each lens that took me over an hour to compile..by using those links to purchase anything it will help this site move on and continue ;) So I thank anyone in advance that uses any of my links on this website.

You can also get these discounts at my other recommended Leica dealers – Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash.com, LeicaStoreMiami.com, and the Pro Shop. 

THE LEICA M 240 – $750 OFF, NOW $6500 NEW

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/893170-USA/Leica_10770_M_Digital_Camera_Black.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837/BI/4399/KBID/4837

Here is a list of Leica lenses on sale:

18 3.4 Super Elmar – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/609382-USA/Leica_11649_18mm_f_3_8_Super_Elmar_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 21 Super Elmar f/3.4 – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/798854-REG/Leica_11145_Super_Elmar_M_1_3_4_21mm_ASPH.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 21 Summilux f/1.4 – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/586191-USA/Leica_11_647_21mm_f_1_4_Summilux_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 24 Summilux f/1.4 – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/586206-USA/Leica_11_601_24mm_f_1_4_Summilux_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 28 Elmarit f/2.8 – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/461972-USA/Leica_11606_28mm_f_2_8_Elmarit_M.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 28 Summicron f/2 – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/214061-USA/Leica_11604_Summicron_M_28mm_f_2_0_Lens.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 35 f/2.5 Summarit – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/520349-REG/Leica_11_643_35mm_f_2_5_Summarit_M_Manual.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 35 Summicron f/2 – $250 Off!
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/134723-USA/Leica_11879_35mm_f_2_0_Summicron_M.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 35 Summilux f/1.4 – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/720355-USA/Leica_11663_35mm_f_1_4_Summilux_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 50 f/2.5 Summarit – $250 off!
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/520350-USA/Leica_11_644_50mm_f_2_5_Summarit_M_Manual.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 50 f/2 Summicron Original – $250 off!
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/86059-USA/Leica_11826_50mm_f_2_0_Summicron_M.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 50 1.4 Summilux ASPH – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/332585-USA/Leica_11891_50mm_f_1_4_Summilux_M.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 50 0.95 Noctilux – $250 off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/586190-REG/Leica_11_602_50mm_f_0_95_Noctilux_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The  75 2.5 Summarit – $250 off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/520351-USA/Leica_11_645_75mm_f_2_5_Summarit_M_Manual.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 75 f/2 Summicron – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/378040-USA/Leica_11637_75mm_f_2_0_APO_Summicron.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 90 f/2.5 Summarit – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/520352-USA/Leica_11_646_90mm_f_2_5_Summarit_M_Manual.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 90 f/2 Summicron APO – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/162726-USA/Leica_11884_90mm_f_2_0_APO_Summicron.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 135 f/3.4 APO – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/162727-USA/Leica_11889_Telephoto_135mm_f_3_4_APO.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 90 f/4 Macro – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1054674-REG/leica_11670_90mm_for_4_macro_elmar_m.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The Wide Angle Tri Elmar – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/461969-USA/Leica_11626_Tri_Elmar_M_16_18_21mm_f_4_Asph.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

Nov 132014
 

Photographing the bride on my own wedding

by Milan Swolfs

On the 27th September this year my wife and I got married in Belgium. We both like vintage clothing and love all things from the 20s, 30s, 40s till 50s. My wife www.macheried.com is my muse and we often do (commercial) shoots together.

I couldn’t resist taking some pics of my wife during our wedding with my Leica M9P and Noctilux f0.95 ASPH.

Thanks to your excellent reviews Steve I bought now the Sony A7S together with the Voigtlander Close Up adapter and use it with my Noctilux too. It’s much easier to focus and I can use it at night.

More of our work you can see on my website www.milanswolfs.com

Keep up the good work.

Kind regards

Milan

Milan Swolfs

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Oct 312014
 

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From the Leica M9 to the Leica M240…and Back to the M9

By Ashwin Rao – Follow him on Facebook HERE

Hello my friends. It’s Ashwin, back to talk about my recent GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) journey with Leica. I have been a huge fan of both the Leica M9 and Leica M Monochrom over the course of the life cycles of these cameras. I have always enjoyed the rangefinder way of seeing, from the time I first came upon my very first rangefinder, an M6 TTL. I joined the digital rangefinder transition, as did many others, with the Leica M8, and while that camera had many benefits (incredibly clear and crisp sensor), it was not quite ready for prime time due to its IR sensitivity issues and operational foibles, all of which have been well documented. That being said, many Leica M8’s remain in service today, over 8 years after it first came into production in September of 2006. The Leica M9 was released to much fanfare on September 9th 2009, heralded as the first full frame digital rangefinder, featuring a high quality CCD sensor with the same pixel pitch as the M8, and some cosmetic and operational refinements. The infrared sensitivity issue ,which plagued the M8, was mitigated for the M9, and for many, it is considered a modern legend of digital photography. I received my first Leica M9 in December of 2009, and soon thereafter wrote my first article for Steve, reviewing the M9 and a “travel camera extraordinaire.” 5 years later, I believe those same words hold true. The Leica M9 remains a remarkable camera, capable of capturing the decisive moment and motivating the eager photographer.

Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

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M240 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

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Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

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With time comes progress (right?) and in September of 2012, Leica announced the Leica M240, or in short, the Leica “M”, the first full frame sensor to feature a new CMOS sensor, which would permit higher ISO shooting, and importantly, live view. In theory, the Leica M240 boasted many performance and design refinements learned from the limitations of the M9. It also allowed rangefinders to compete with other modern cameras in providing an option to focus lenses with live view and it can shoot video. For many rangefinder enthusiasts, particularly those with aging eyes and a large collection of R lenses, the M240 represented an option by which to focus more accurately and use their R lenses, which have not been supported by a modern digital Leica R.

Like many, I was very curious when the M240 was launched. I kept a close eye on those who were able to use the camera early in its production cycle, such as Steve, Jono Slack, Gary Tyson, and others. As the camera became more widely available, I regularly browsed online photo forums and facebook enthusiast pages to find compelling images and reasons to justify upgrade….this process was a year long journey, and one accompanied by great struggle. I truly loved my M9, the “CCD look” that I perceived to be true, and had truly bonded with the camera over years of use, but new cameras are always compelling and entice the prospective buyer with the promise of new features and improved image quality. I also struggled with the concept of investing another $7000 in a camera, when I had just done this a few years back.

Leica M9 and 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH pre-FLE

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Finally, in the spring of this year (2014), I purchased the M240. It was a harrowing, yet exciting moment. In the year that I had debated whether or not to purchase the M240, I remarked that the color palette, dynamic range and look of files from the M240 was vastly different M9 files. Initially, the M240 seemed to be plagued by inconsistent white balance, but over the year, through firmware upgrades, Leica seemed to improve upon this. Yet, the colors coming from the camera, and skin tones in particular, seemed so different, warmer and more red/orange (a common problem with CMOS digital sensors, by the way), than what I had accommodated to with my M9, which provided a seemingly cooler skin tone profile. As I reviewed images, I came to compare the M9 and M240 images to different image stock. Ultimately, I was compelled to try the M240 to see if I could adjust to this different way of seeing.

M9 and 50 mm Noctilux f/0.95

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M240 and 50 mm APO Summicron-ASPH

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In the process of buying my M240, I quickly sold my M9 to be able to focus on one color rangefinder option. I set into getting to learn my camera, and was able to have the M240 around for a very important part of my life, that is, my wedding and the months around this event. I managed to shoot the camera regularly.

What were my conclusions, you might ask? What was my conclusion from this costly experiment? Well, the title of the article summarizes the basic experience, but let me elaborate. I simply couldn’t get used to the M240 and I could not find a bond with the camera. First, and most challenging for me, was the color reproduction of the camera and its inconsistent white balance reproductions under artificial light, particularly in rendering skin complexion. I often found skin tones to render excessively yellow or orange, and I simply could not find ways in Adobe Lightroom, to get skin tones to look as I enjoyed. I could get close, but adjusting skin tones would often affect the color reproduction of the rest of the image. Apparently, I had accommodated to the look of the M9, and I could not get close enough with the M240. Second, and disappointing to me, was an issue with banding at higher ISO’s. Whenever I took a shot that was underexposed, lifting the shadows resulted in noticeable banding at ISO’s of 3200 and higher (and occasionally at ISO 1600). I was able to remedy the banding issue using software fixes (Nik software’s has a de-banding tool that’s very useful). In practice, shooting in low light was nearly as limited for the M240 as it was for the M9, which has a practical ISO limit of around 640, after which banding behaviors are the norm with image adjustment.

M240 and Summicron 28 ASPH

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Leica M9 and Noctilux 50 mm f/0.95

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For the M240, I also struggled mightily with the “start up time” of the camera. When powering the camera on, it takes about 2-3 seconds before the photographer can actually take a shot. Initially, I thought this was a camera defect, but trying a few friends’ M240’s, I found the behavior to be universal. I tried to remedy this by leaving the camera on all of the time, given that the M240 sports a much-improved battery than the M9. However, after prolonged periods when the camera went back to sleep, I noticed the same lag. There were several instances where I missed an important shot , and this became an increasing turn off as I used the camera more.

M240 and Noctilux f/0.95 – Lauren

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As I used the M240 more, I became increasingly aware of the weight of the camera. At first, I felt that the camera felt more confident, more solid, less “airy” in hand, but after some time, I found the added bulk to be unwanted. My shooting arm would get sore. Not a huge deal, but enough of a difference to be annoying. After all, there was an outcry when the M8 and M9 were built with much thicker bodies than previous film M bodies, and here was a camera that provided even more bulk and heft to a shooter (myself) who valued size and discretion in his camera.

M240 and Noctilux f/0.95 – Andi

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M9 and Noctilux f/0.95

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Finally, I became increasingly annoyed over time with the menu layout. I wasn’t entirely sure when to press the “Menu”, “set”, and Info buttons. It was not nearly as intuitive an experience as to how best to adjust settings on the fly as it was with the M9. Even the ISO adjustment methodology seemed more cumbersome to me, who had gotten used to the simplicity of the M9’s menu and button implementation. The M240 had new buttons in unexpected places, and on occasion, which thought I was capturing images, I had accidentally triggered video shooting.

M240 and 90 mm f/4 Macro Elmar

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M9 and Rigid Summicron 50 mm f/2 (v2)

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As you read this, you may feel that I am unfairly bashing the M240, and that with more time, I would have adjusted to the cameras many quirks. While this may be true, I kept coming back to my struggles with the M240’s image rendering. As I looked on my screen at old M9 shots, and compared them to the M240 images that I had captured, I took note of several things. I find the M9 to have rendered a more “crisp” pixel, while the M240 renders a slightly softer pixel. Further, the M240 renders with much more dynamic range, but for some reason, images taken with this camera seemed to exhibit less 3D pop that I saw with my M9.

In summary, I began to find reasons to return to my Leica M9, and in August, after 4 months, I sold my Leica M240 and returned to the M9. I can say that I am happy with this choice and much more settled with keeping the M9 and its awesome CCD sensor and way of rendering.

Well, I spent a lot of time bashing the M240, no? Let me bash the M9 for some balance. The M9 is a camera full of quirks and deficiencies. First off, it has a completely inadequate and dated 200,000+ pixel LCD. It was an out of date LCD the moment it was released, and 8 years later, it’s ridiculously poor…One cannot count on confirming clear focus with the M9’s LCD. Further, there’s a slight delay between when the image snaps into focus on the LCD, making images seem blurry for a moment.

There are times when the M9 freezes operationally and won’t take a shot. And I don’t just mean when the buffer is full. At times, I have missed important shots because the M9 simply refused to take the shot. Further, battery life is quite poor (300-400 shots), compared to the far improved M240 sensor. The M9 has an ISO limitation that stems from its CCD sensor. It’s only capable of being shot reliably through ISO 640 (or 800 if you are willing to live with lost dynamic range, muddier images). Compared to today’s sensors (think Sony, Fuji, Olympus, and Panasonic), this ISO limitation seems arcane. Compared to the M240, which offers clean ISO’s through 1600 and inconsistent but occasionally decent performance at ISO 3200, it seems old as well. Yet, at base ISO through ISO 400, the M9 offers something unique. It offers a lovely color palette. Images, particularly of people jump off the screen. Skin tones and rendering can take on a lifelike look, while the M240 occasionally presents skin tones in a waxy (CMOS) manner. You’d never see this on your cell phone or laptop monitor, but on a calibrated larger home monitor or large print, there’s a difference there that’s continued to be noticeable to me.

Ultimately, I came to accept the limitations of the Leica M9 to gain its benefits. The M9 turns on and is ready to shoot instantaneously. It’s silent shooting mode is cleverly implemented and useful when employed. It’s a lighter and airier camera and is less fatiguing to hold in the hand for prolonged shoots. It’s menus offer operational simplicity, which seems to echo the rangefinder way of seeing. It’s CCD rendering (yes, I believe that the CCD “look” is real…sorry to all of the naysayers) is awesome and increasingly unique in a world where CMOS sensors have taken over.

I believe that the Leica M9 continues to represent the pinnacle of Leica’s imaging achievement. Like many countless others who’d hope for a camera that offers the best of all worlds, I strongly suspect that such a camera will never materialize. I doubt that there will ever be another CCD-sensor Leica. And thus, I am “stuck” with the M9, and of course, my beloved Leica M Monchrom. For those times when I desire revelatory ISO performance, I have moved to the Sony A7s, which I have used extensively (nearly exclusively) with Leica M lenses, and I find that its limitations (primarily the 12 megapixel sensor and tunnel view SLR way of seeing) don’t bother me all that much. The Sony is not built anywhere as confidently as the Leica (in terms of feel), but it’s a great camera worth checking out for a modern CMOS option. IT’s colors are not Leica colors, but I have found that I can get skin tones that I like with this camera.

Leica M9 and 35 Summuilux FLE

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Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

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Thus, for me, the Leica M240 is now part of my photographic past. The Leica M9 has returned to my kit. It represents my photographic present. I certainly hope and expect that Leica will continue to re-invent itself with new innovative products and improved rangefinders. The Leica M240 was not the right camera for me, but I hope that the next iteration will be a better fit. At that time, the M9 will remain with me. It’s a lifetime camera, unless Leica finds the guts to go back to CCD or a sensor the renders similarly. It offers a unique rendering that blends so well with M lenses. It’s a great option for photography, even today.

M240 and 50 mm APO-Summicron ASPH

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I imagine that many of you will take exception to my thoughts and comments. I welcome your thoughts, your debate, and your criticisms to this argument. It simply represents my opinion and current thinking on the matter.

Here’s a summary of what I consider the strengths and weaknesses of the 2 cameras discussed:

Pros of the Leica M9
• CCD sensor – per pixel microontrast and dynamic range at low ISO
• Menu and operational simplicigty
• Weight
• Heft
• Instant On
• Silent shooting mode

Cons of the Leica M9
• ISO limitation
• Rear LCD is terrible
• Poor battery life
• Indoor and outdoor white balance inconsistency
• Reduced dynamic range compared to modern sensors
• Occasionally the shutter doesn’t fire
• IR sensitivity is still there, though less so?

Pros of the M240
• ISO improvements (though banding limits realistic ISO to < 3200, and in some cases, 1600
• Moderate Dynamic range improvement
• Solid battery life
• Build Quality
• EVF capacity, for those who want it
• Much improved shutter sound and less shutter shake
• Fantastic Black and White Conversions

Cons of the M240
• Heavier
• Meno complexity and dials
• Adds complication to a simple RF concept (i.e. video, EVF, etc)
• Unnatural Color reproduction of skin tones
• Indoor white balance inconsistency
• Shooting lag, when camera is first activated
• More IR sensitivity?

Feasible areas of improvement for the next Leica M:
• Improved color stability for white balance
• Improved color rendering of skin tones
• Reduced banding artifacts for high ISO, particularly when adjusting images
• Baseplate access to the battery and SD card
• Make the camera thinner, rather than thicker
In fairness to bias, my time with the M240 was self-limited to 4 months. My time with the M9 has extended to nearly 5 years. There may be much in that difference in experience that may explain some of my experiences with these cameras. All the best to you, and most importantly, keep your hand on the shutter and keep making images, regardless of camera.

M240 and Rigid Summicron 50 mm f/2 (v2)

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M240 and 35 mm Summilux ASPH FLE

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Oct 302014
 

Some Leica M 240 love..

by Per Bendiksen

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

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

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

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

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Thanks for hosting this inspiring site!

Happy shooting folks!

more pictures @ perbendiksen.wordpress.com

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