Feb 102016
 
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A Return to Film from the Leica Monochrom

by James Suojanen

Hey Steve!

I began making photographs in the 1960’s using a 35mm rangefinder and developing my own black and white film. I also made contact prints and did some enlargements. But I fell away from photography through college, professional training, career and early family life; no time, no money. And color photography eluded me. But when digital became affordable with the Nikon D70, I began again. Initially I went the SLR route, but as I got older I disliked the size and weight so I ended up back with rangefinders, eventually acquiring a Leica Monochrom to complete the return to my roots; or so I thought.

Using the Monochrom with just about any decent lens produced unbelievably sharp images.

This image was made using a 60+ year old 50mm Summarit during the Memorial Day Parade in my town (Summarit yellow filter, handheld) – Leica Monochrom

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I made this image I made at the Military Cemetery in Bourne, Massachusetts. Normally the graves can have NO decoration. But the father of a posthumous Medal of Honor soldier buried there won the right to have flags placed at every grave site for the Veterans Day and Memorial Day weekends. An amazing event in which hundreds of volunteers appear, place the flags and then remove them. (Monochrom with a 21mm SEM on a tripod with a yellow filter) – Leica Monochrom

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On a trip to my old stomping grounds in the South, I made this pic with the Monochrom and a 35mm Summilux FLE (UV filter).

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I like all of these images. The prints have a medium-format acuity to them. But I just found/find them a bit sterile; they lack(ed) a certain “je ne sais pas” for me. So when I saw an announcement of a Leica Akademie workshop on film photography coincident with a trip to LA, I decided I’d take a second look at film. What I like about workshops is not only the focused time devoted to learning and practicing, but also the people the people I meet. I wasn’t disappointed by the cast of characters who assembled. And I was given 2 36-exposure rolls of Ilford XP2 for a sojourn through Chinatown and environs. Great fun, great instructor and a real adventure! Film DOES make you slow down and think about the images you’re making.

XP2 is a Black & White ISO 400 negative film developed using the C-41 process for color films. The images shown here were commercially scanned at the time of development with a 3,000 x 2,000 pixel resolution. All images were made with my Leica M7 and Voigtlander 35mm Color Skopar, except for Bruce Lee – 90mm macro elmar. I used a yellow filter for about half of them. I post-processed in Lightroom and Nik. I think the color processing gives the files a good bit of latitude for digital post-procesing. The grain is very fine and uniform. For those do-it-yourselfers, I imagine that Kodak TMax would give similar results.

Peculiar – an open but very hostile gate.

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Church in Hispanic neighborhood next to Chinatown

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Building next to the Church. As I unloaded the second roll at the end of the day, I realized I had not rewound before I opened the camera. Steve can’t publish what I said at that moment, but I quickly closed the camera back up and hoped for the best. This bit of serendipity occurs with film and can make for some interesting images. The light from the sprocket holes provides celestial framing for this otherwise boring composition.

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My favorite image of the day. Simple story within a complex image – maybe a metaphor for most of us seeking to find a path through the complicated thing we call life.

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Statue of Bruce Lee. The sprocket light made a spotlight for his face. I had a very difficult time framing since I wanted to get his hand in-between the lanterns, like he was balancing them. I had to account for the lens/viewfinder parallax while I held the camera upside down.

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A bench. The Voigtlander lens renders very nicely on film. It’s as sharp as a 35mm Summicron (had one a while back) with very nice bokeh. Small and light, I find it’s short focus throw terrific for street photography. I spent about $350 for the screw mount lens and adapter. It also looks great on both my M7 and my Leica IIIf.

For me, I saw these images and knew I was home again – at least for B&W. They just breath more that the Monochrom pictures. I don’t really know what it is. Certainly a lens will interact with a 20µ thick film emulsion differently than a 1µ micro prism at the top of a photocell in a digital sensor. It may also reflect an analog vs digital tonal range. Perhaps some/most of you reading this (thank you for taking the time to read this piece and look at the photographs), will think me deluded. That’s okay. Art is art, and a wise man once said, “There are as many paths to God as there are people on the Earth”. I’ll paraphrase him by saying that each of us has our own path (i.e. camera, lenses, etc.) to making THE PICTURE which we all seek.

Cheers and blessings,
JNSuojanen

P.S. Given the rapid depreciation of digital cameras, I don’t think there is any significant cost between film and digital for most of us amateurs (except if you shoot action stuff). My Leica IIIf is 60+ years old and works perfectly (I can’t say the same about myself).

Jan 302016
 

Using the Leica Q for street photography

by Stephen Swain

Dear Steve,

I submitted some images to you almost exactly a year ago (back stage with the x-pro 1), which you kindly placed on your site. Since then you have had some really valuable reviews of various new camera models, and the one that tempted me most was the Leica Q, so much in fact that I put my name down on the pre-order list!

I must say it has not disappointed…it is an ideal tool for the type of street pictures I like to take.

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As you see from the images here I like to work very close to the subject, but at the same time to keep “invisible”. I am not a very patient person, so I try to squeeze interesting images out of the mundane, and I thrive on very busy streets where it is easy to blend in and not ne noticed.

The 28mm lens on the Leica is ideal for me as it creates a feeling that you are “in and amongst” whatever you are shooting, which you do not achieve if you are zooming in (I think this gives a more voyeuristic feel…which is fine if it is what you are after). The very quiet shutter is perfect and nobody has heard me yet…which used to happen sometimes with the Fuji, and I also have the option of the silent electronic shutter. The EVF is perfect and shutter lag is virtually non-existent.

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Focus wise it is a game changer. I use three different settings for focusing depending on the situation, zone focusing and face detection auto when I am shooting blind, and manual focusing when I am shooting using the viewfinder. The face detection mode is very fast and has allowed me to get shots I would not have been able to catch manually (the girl wearing a blue hat is a prime example of this) Granted sometimes it focuses on the “wrong” face, but this is a price worth paying for when it works as you wish. It also allows you to shoot blind with a wide aperture and throw the background out of focus…even with the 28mm lens.

Thanks again for all of the great work you put into your site. Do let me know if you would like any more information.

Best wishes,

Stephen Swain

www.capturethemoment.co.uk

Jan 292016
 

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STREET SHOOT: Hollywood Blvd.

By Darwin Nercesian

If you are looking for a target rich environment for a little street photography, there are almost always those local spots where we all know we can go to strike gold. Is this cheating? No, not really, but it certainly helps get the creative juices flowing. For me, well, I have the distinct pleasure of being both close enough and far enough from the famed Hollywood Blvd, home of Mann’s Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and of course, millions upon millions of locals and tourists that flood the street daily to get a glimpse, or perhaps just feel like they are in the thick of it. So when I got the call to accompany a few photographer friends into this jungle for a day street photography, it was simply an offer I could not refuse.

As always, I hit the street with my companions of choice, my trusty Leica M-P 240 an M246 Monochrom, and my 3 go to lenses, the 35mm Summilux FLE, 50mm Summilux ASPH, and 50mm Summicron APO. Ultimately, however, it was the M246 and the 50mm APO that saw the most action.

While Hollywood Blvd is thought of as more of an adult’s playground, apparently it can be fun for children of all ages.

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This kid was having a blast, the the Globetrotter could not be more entertaining to the little guy. This went on for some time andwas a joy to watch. Lets just hope he doesn’t grow up and take advice from this guy.

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And speaking of less than stellar advice, here is one I wouldn’t recommend, but then again, I take sides with Indiana Jones when it comes to the slithery in nature. Too bad this isn’t sin city because the symbolism really struck me here.

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But giant reptiles were not all that was lurking on this day, and something march larger, and perhaps much more sinister was afoot. It is always great to be aware of your surroundings, lest you be caught off guard…

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But no matter where evil lurks, there is always a watchful eye keeping the people safe. One need not look too far on this stretch of the boulevard to find a hero, and in this case, the calm fell over me when I noticed that we were under the protection of none other than…

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And so it was that people celebrated the day, paying tribute to the arts, each in their own way.

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While people from all walks of life shared common distractions…

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Because who doesn’t like a slice of pie?

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But in the end, after a long day amongst the stars (the ones embedded in the sidewalk), we found our true calling. In the midst of the glitz and glamour (not really), we learned that the lesson to take with us was, “Defend Democracy in Poland”.

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My name is Darwin Nercesian. I am an architectural, street, and travel photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. You can see more of my work at: www.dna-image.com

Jan 222016
 

It’s Friday! WooHoo! Enjoy your weekend and be sure to come back NEXT WEEK!

Hello to all here! It’s Friday and I just wanted to wrap up this week by saying ENJOY IT! If you are in the path of the Monster SnowStorm heading throughout some states in the USA, STAY SAFE, STAY WARM and get some images if you can! I will be here NEXT WEEK with some testing of new exciting gear, reporting from Austin TX and then New York City! So start checking back Monday for some cool news and info.

This past week I have been using my RX1RII more and more and have been really getting into it. My RX1RII has no issues  – at all. It is stealthy, quiet, quick, and provides rich stunning IQ. I bought THIS hood for mine and it’s nicer than the Sony version that costs so much more. All metal too.

Debby as an Evil Clown. RX1RII and PP 

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I have also been testing the Leica 50 Summilux Limited Edition (GORGEOUS VERSION OF THIS LENS!) on my Sony A7RII and it is just as lovely using the Sony as it is on the Leica SL for most shooting. It’s got some crazy pop, color and sharpness that is somehow beating my last couple of 50 Summilux lenses. Not sure if they lucked out and had a superior glass chunk for this addition or if they were assembled with more precision or if the housing of the 1959 version helps it. Maybe my last two standard Lux’s were not 100%. Who knows. I just know the last time I had a 50 Lux designed like this, it was also PHENOMINAL (The LHSA Edition many years ago). See more of what I wrote about it HERE. 

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I did nothing to the OOC shot below yet look how amazingly sharp it is where I focused. A7RII, 50 Lux. Click for 100% crop at the right size. Keeps the 50 Lux Character as well.

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ENJOY YOUR WEEKEND!!! STAY SAFE, STAY WARM!

Steve

Jan 202016
 
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New All Weather – Underwater – Any & All Situation Leica X-U

Leica has announced another new camera in the form of a new X (Type 113). This time around Leica beefed up the construction to make it UNDERWATER, ALL WEATHER and ALL SITUATION. It is shock resistant as well. Basically a take anywhere, anytime Leica X 113. This is an X 113..same sensor, same insides, same IQ but it is built to be TOUGH.

Take a look at the Leica Press release below and see what they are saying about their new addition to their ever-growing line of cameras.

Where to order?

You can pre-order with Ken Hansen ([email protected]) or PopFlash.com or B&H Photo. PRICE? $2950

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BELOW: PRESS RELEASE FROM LEICA:

Introducing The First Outdoor & Underwater Camera From Leica: the Leica X-U (Typ 113)

The new shock-resistant, waterproof and dust resistant compact provides outstanding picture quality under even the harshest conditions

January 20, 2016 – Leica Camera today announced the newest addition to its range of cameras, the Leica X-U (Typ 113) – the first model designed specifically for extreme outdoor and underwater use. Incredible ruggedness and easy handling make this waterproof, shock-resistant, winterized and dust-sealed camera the ideal companion for every outdoor tour or expedition; great for action and underwater adventures, travel and landscape photography, even in full HD video.

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Optimal picture quality with the Leica X-U is guaranteed by the same cutting-edge technology of all cameras in the Leica family. Combined with the high performance APS-C format CMOS sensor of 16.5 megapixels, its Leica Summilux 23 mm f/1.7 ASPH lens ensures natural color reproduction with maximum detail and sharpness, while the camera’s fast maximum aperture of f/1.7 allows for selective focusing. With its rugged underwater protection filter, the fully waterproofed camera guarantees pictures with exceptional brightness and clarity under even the harshest conditions and at depths of up to 49 feet.

Although all settings and features can each be changed individually, the intuitive handling of the Leica X-U follows Leica’s philosophy of a focus on the essentials. The options for automatic functions and the high-resolution, 3-inch LCD monitor help photographers find the precise settings in seconds, to avoid missing a moment. For the underwater photographer, the underwater snapshot button makes it easy to capture an image at the press of a button, without having to search through a menu.

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Made in Germany in collaboration with Audi Design, the stylish and minimal design of the Leica X-U ensures easy, intuitive handling and ultimate precision. The sleek, eye-catching camera features a top plate made from premium aluminium and an anti-slip TPE protective armor. Aluminium control dials show an attention to detail and an integrated flash above the lens provides exceptional picture quality when no natural light is available. Finally, the X-U’s non-slip body features a hardened protective cover for the monitor screen, with a failsafe double locking system for the battery compartment and memory card slot, to ensure total safety and control in all conditions.

When a single photo is not enough to capture the moment, the full HD video function of the Leica X-U makes it easy to capture moving pictures in high definition quality. The camera records video in a choice of 1920 x 1080 or 1280 x 720 pixel resolution at 30 frames per second in MP4 video format, delivering high-quality results that perfectly capture any adventure or journey.

The Leica X-U (Typ 113), priced at $2,950 will be available by the end of January at your local Leica Store, Leica Boutique or Leica Dealer.-U

Jan 192016
 

NOW SOLD: 1940’s Leica Collapsable Elmar 5cm – 9/10

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****THIS LENS HAS BEEN SOLD – A FEW MORE FOR SALE BELOW****

Just wanted to offer up a lens I am selling to all of you here, my readers. It is a special lens to me as I have owned it for years and it is simply gorgeous. It is a screw mount lens but has a thin Screw Mount to M adapter on it, and was on it when I purchased the lens from an older gentleman who was clearing out some of his old Leica gear. Why am I selling? Well, every 3 months or so I have to clear off some thing from my shelves in my office as they start to get overloaded. These days I have one shelf for all of my Sony gear (of which I have the most) and another for Leica and another for Micro 4/3.

This lens, while GORGEOUS..I just never use it anymore as I loved it on my Monochrom which I no longer own. So this is a chance to get a gorgeous perfect copy of this lens. I also have other gear for sale at the bottom of the page, all with fair and aggressive pricing.

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I am asking only $200 for this lens and if you are looking for a super compact 50mm lens for your Leica or Sony then this one will give you a classical look. My fave use of this was when I owned a Monochrom. Matched up perfectly to it as you can see in the video below where I used the MM and this lens exclusively. All images you see were shot with this lens:

If interested, 1st one to email me at [email protected] and pay for it gets it. Paypal only, $15 shipping, no fees. So $215 total gets it. This is a lovely copy and yes you can collapse it on an M, I did. I paid $200 for it when I bought it. You can see my little review of it HERE with loads of images.

Also for sale: Leica 90 Elmarit 2.8, latest version before discontinuing it – slide out hood, review HERE. $1250.

Also for sale: Leica 50 Summicron PRE APO  – current normal version w/slide out hood- $1200  – review here

Jupiters have SOLD. Also for Sale: Jupiter 8 and 9 – BOTH for $100 – review of the 8 HERE – SOLD

 

Jan 182016
 
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New E mount and M Mount Ultra Wides from Voigtlander!

YES! Voigtlander has once again announced new glass and this time the new lenses are not only for Leica M mount but now Sony E mount as well! It seems Voigtlander has taken notice of Sony’s popularity in the full frame mirrorless world and have created a 10mm, 12mm and 15mm lens for the E or FE system. Yes, these are manual full frame lenses and they look as beautiful as can be ;)

The new lenses for Sony FE include a 10mm f/5.6, 12mm f/5.6 VIII and the ever so popular 15mm f/4.5 VIII. These versions will work perfect on the Sony system as they were designed for the Sony system. No more issues using these ultra wides in M mount on the Sony. So THIS IS AWESOME as the 12 and 15 are fantastic pieces of glass that can go up against any Ultra wide in the same Focal Length. See them below:

The 10, 12 and 15 are available for pre-order at CameraQuest NOW. INFO HERE!

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Voigtlander is also releasing new M mount lenses. The 10 f/5.6 and the 12 f/5.6 VERSION III which is improved yet again like they did with the 15 Version III. I can not wait to see the 10mm in action as 10mm is WIDE.

The new M mount Ultra Wides. The 10mm f/5.6 and the 12mm f/5.6 VIII. Available HERE

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I am thrilled to see Voigtlander start making lenses for the Sony FE system. Especially well made manual lenses such as these as it adds a unique twist to the usual auto focus experience. Reviews will be coming soon!

Jan 142016
 

Leica releases new versions of 28 Summicron, 35 Summicron and 28 Elmarit!

Seems like Leica has updated some lenses and they will start shipping in Feb. A new 28 Summicron ASPH f/2, and an updated 28 Elmarit and 35 Summicron. They all have all new metal hood designs which is AWESOME as the 28 and 35 Cron hoods were awful, always falling off. The new metal screw in design will keep them intact! If this floats your boat, you can pre-order these new “refresh” lenses at my top recommended Leica dealers Ken Hansen (email: [email protected]) or PopFlash.com or B&H Photo. Links below for B&H.

What I am unsure of if these lenses have been changed OPTICALLY at all, I do not think they have been.

UPDATE: A reader commented below that there are new optical formulas for these. The 35 cron  used to have 8 Aperture blades, it now has 11. Others have less field curvature, so YES these are improved optically as well!

If you have been in the market for a new 28 or 35 for Leica M, I’d be sure to grab the newest versions here, if buying NEW of course!

The new 35 Summicron ASPH f/2 – ships Feb – $2799 – – B&H Link – Ken HansenPopFlash.com

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New 28 Cron ASPH f/2 – $3995 – B&H Photo, Ken Hasnen, PopFlash

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New 28 Elmarit ASPH f/2.8 – $2195 – B&H PhotoKen HansenPopFlash

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Jan 112016
 

A Look at The Leica 50 Summilux ASPH Black Chrome Special Edition. Beautiful!

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Ahhhh, gorgeous! Recently I was able to get a hold of a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH Special Edition. This is the beautiful matte black edition of this legendary lens with a different design (from 1959) and even smaller filter size (43mm vs 46). The last time I had a 50 Summilux ASPH that looked like this was during the M8 days when I bought the LHSA Special Limited Edition version, which was exactly the same as this one, just in black paint (also came in Chrome) instead of matte black chrome. That lens..I paid $3600 for back then and sold it for $8000 later on as it appreciated like mad. Even today that version of this lens sells for $7500+ USED. It came in Black paint of Chrome. Take a LOOK HERE at a used LHSA 50 Lux on B&H. $7500. It is exactly the same as this new limited edition inside and out! Design, hood, everything. SO why would one pay $7500 for a used version of this lens when you can get it new for $3900 or so? Well, if you are a hardcore collector and want the LHSA edition for the LHS name (on the box) then maybe you would. If you want to use the lens, this new Limited Edition is the way to go over all versions of this lens, IMO.

My video showing you this lens and why I think it is the best 50 Lux you can buy today..

To date I have tried around 8 50mm lenses on the Leica SL and Sony A7RII so far and my faves have been the 50 APO cron and now this 50 Lux SE (others are the Zeiss 50 Planar, Zeiss 50 Sonnar, Voigtlander 50 1.5). But for me, this Lux Limited Edition makes much more sense to be my main 50 for my SL and my Sony as only 500 were made, and it is a lens that will go up in value instead of down like all other lenses today. Just like the limited number LHSA edition that even today sells for $7500 used ($4k more than it sold for new), this version should creep up over the years, not down.

50 1.4 Lux ASPH LE at 1.4 – click it for better version – All images here shot on the Leica SL

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This one was sent to me by Ken Hansen to try out and what a beauty it is. The lens has a heft to it that makes it feel UBER solid. Much more solid feeling than the standard 50 Lux. The focusing is also smoother, and no focus tab which is a plus for me. The scalloped focusing ring is easy to twist and dial in. This and the LHSA edition are the most beautiful 50 Lux ASPH’s I have seen, and I also have one more reason I prefer it to the normal Lux. Overall Quality.

For some  reason when I used to own the LHSA LE edition of the Lux ASPH it was sharper and performed better than the standard Lux ASPH I had at the time. Same here, this Limited Edition is PERFECT and seems snappier and crisper at the focus point than the standard Lux I have here. I feel that these limited runs may be made to a higher standard as I have now experienced this TWICE. I feel these LE’s may be assembled with a little more perfection as they are a limited run. No other way to explain it.

Must click images to see them correctly – always best on large screens!

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Sof or the obvious reasons of beauty, construction, perfection and the fact that this lens will not go down in value (as it is a limited edition) means this will be my main go to 50mm on the SL or A7RII for me, and after testing all the 50’s I had interest in for my SL, this is the winner even though the 50 APO is technically perfect (this one is a better deal IMO at half the cost) It just feels so good, looks gorgeous and is much easier to focus without the tab (some may prefer the tab though). It has a serious little heft to it but as you know, it’s small. This lens also comes with a very nice and solid brass hood and cap (black chrome) and it sticks to the old 1959 version in all ways having to do with looks and design, but with modern internals. This means no slide out hood, instead you must attach it on and off manually.

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Here is what Leica has to say about this Special Edition:

Resembling its predecessor from 1959, the black-chrome edition Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. Lens features a unique matte black finish along with a classic exterior design akin to the first production run of this renowned lens. While recalling its past on the outside, this edition is also characterized by its contemporary optical design that incorporates one aspherical element and one floating element, as well as elements made from anomalous partial dispersion and high refractive index glasses.

This sophisticated construction helps to reduce chromatic aberrations and distortions throughout the focusing and aperture ranges, which contribute to high overall sharpness and clarity. Further benefitting the lens’ overall versatility, the fast f/1.4 maximum aperture also aids in working in difficult lighting conditions as well as offers greater control over focus for shallow depth of field techniques. Pairing a classic outer design with innovative optical components, this black-chrome edition is the epitome of Leica’s penchant for mixing both form and function.

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As part of a limited edition of 500 pieces, this black-chrome finish Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. lens features a matte black exterior as well as an outer design that resembles the first edition of this lens from 1959. Other distinct design elements include a scalloped focusing ring, red-colored focusing distance scale in feet, and a finely-knurled aperture ring. In addition to the unique appearance of the lens, this edition also includes a metal front lens cap as well as a metal round lens hood.

One aspherical element and one floating element are incorporated within the optical design, along with anomalous partial dispersion and high refractive index glass elements, to control aberrations and distortions at all aperture and focus positions.
Fast f/1.4 maximum aperture benefits working with selective focus and shallow depth of field techniques, as well as working in difficult lighting conditions.

Manual focus design provides a minimum focusing distance of 2.3′ (0.7 Meters) with a maximum magnification ratio of 1:11.3.

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WHERE TO BUY…NOW..for a NORMAL PRICE!

If you want this lens do not pay $5,6 or 7k on E-Bay where sellers are trying to take advantage of the limited edition name tag on this lens (it is limited to 500) Ken Hansen has a few IN STOCK NOW. You can e-mail him at [email protected] if you want one! Tell him I sent you! He has only a limited few left!

PopFlash had one. It seems to now be gone.

B&H has them IN STOCK as well.  Normal retail price of $3950

Jan 102016
 

Zeiss Sonnar C ZM Lens for sale, As new in box! $680!

SOLD!!! The Sonnar is SOLD!

1st come, 1st serve! This is a 2 week old Zeiss Sonnar C Zm lens (Leica Mount). Works amazing on any Sony A7 body, the Leica M or the Leica SL. You can see my recent report on it here.  This is a very unique lens, and so much different from just about any modern 50 out there. It has the creamy bokeh, 3D pop and creamy color that Zeiss is known for. The lens sells new for $1200, and I am selling it, as new in box, unregistered for $680 as a “reader appreciation” special. Every now and then when I sell a personal lens or camera I offer it at a much lower price than normal, so if you want this one, in black, in box, $680 via paypal will get it ($20 shipping).

If you want it, 1st one to email me and pay gets it. EMAIL ME HERE if interested. 

**I also have a Leica 50 Summicron (pre APO, no 6-bit) in leather Leica case (latest version before APO) for $1250 and a 90 Elmarit 2.8 (latest slide out hood version before it was discontinued) ASPH I am selling for a friend at $1250. I have them in hand and both are a 9 condition. Just no boxes or 6 bit coding. This is actually my 2nd fave 90mm lens next to the $3600 90 APO. $1250 is a steal for this guy**

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a few shots with this lens on the Sony A7RII and the Leica SL. 

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Jan 092016
 

The original Leica 50 Summicron on the Leica SL (for sale)

A week or so ago a friend of mine sent me a couple of his M lenses to check out as he is selling them and I figured I would take a look, try them out and show some images here using them, and then offer it for sale here in case anyone is looking for a great buy on a Leica 50 Summicron or 90 Elmarit! Optically, this 50 Cron is the latest version before the new APO. It has the slide out hood but is NOT 6 Bit Coded. I simply set the SL up for this lens in the menu before using it. I shot a few images late night while out with family and was very impressed with how this lens renders on the SL. Same as I remember it from the M9.

I find the older 50 cron to be gorgeous with B&W conversions. It’s a classic design and a small fast 50 that does not break the bank. If anyone is interested in this lens, it is being sold for $1250. I have it in hand and its in beautiful condition with leather case. No box. But the lens is a legend. If interested e-mail me HERE. I also have a 90 2.8 Elmarit for sale for $1250 (this version). This was the last version before being discontinued, and I sold my copy 4 years ago for $2500. Today they are going for much less. My fave Leica 90 next to the APO cron. ;)

Enjoy the rest of the weekend! Most images below are all at high ISO of 6400 and up on the Leica SL. Some have had film filters added which in turn, added more grain. I also underexposed many of these and had to bring out the deep shadows, so more noise than usual. Other than that, the 50 Cron rendering is as it always has been. Very “Leica”.

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Dec 302015
 

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My Leica SL Experience

By Dan Feldman

“I’m an Australian expat living in the UAE (Abu Dhabi) and have been shooting Leica cameras for some time now. I started with a secondhand M (typ 240) and Summilux 50mm ASPH f1.4, graduating through to the Q (which my wife mainly shoots with). I bought the SL and 24-90 zoom shortly after release and an excellent demonstration / workshop put together in Dubai by Leica UAE. I also own a Summilux 35mm ASPH f1.4 and a Noctilux 50mm f0.95. Prior to shooting Leicas I owned several Sony A-Mount DSLTs, including the wonderful A99 and Zeiss 24-70 f2.8 combination.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque (SL 601) Dan Feldman (2 of 14)

I originally moved to Leica because I wanted to try the rangefinder experience and because I was intrigued by its history. After many months of that experience, my mind is clear: rangefinder photography is one of the most rewarding ways to make pictures that there is. There’s little like the feeling of composing a shot through framelines and capturing timing and focus manually: it’s addictive and gives you an unmatched sense of ownership over the result. Like Ashwin Rao and others, I also feel real pride in using a device with such a long and storied background from a company has been so important in the development of the art we all love today. The cost involved is a commitment, but it is best viewed as an investment in your own pleasure and engagement with the craft: you are buying into a real culture of innovation, quality, simplicity and beauty, and you feel it whenever you take the camera out with you.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque (SL 601) Dan Feldman (3 of 14)

Sheikh Zayed Mosque (SL 601) Dan Feldman (4 of 14)

After buying the M, I bought the Q as soon as it was announced, sight-unseen. Primarily I was interested in having an autofocusing M-style camera (because I have a young son who won’t sit still, and keeping track of him solely with manual focus means a few too many missed shots!) and because the 28mm focal length nicely balanced my existing lens lineup. I won’t dwell on the qualities of the Q; everyone who has used one knows what they are, and it is a magical device that, in hindsight, was the perfect proof-of-concept for what followed …

Now, to the SL:

Like many others who have contributed to Steve’s site, I was won over by the SL as soon as I picked it up. It radiates quality and modernity from its design, materials, heft and layout, and pictures do justice to none of these characteristics. There are elements which irritate me (the “LEICA” lettering at the top is, in my view, distracting and a little obnoxious) but these are minor quibbles compared to the overall sensory experience of seeing and handling the device. The near-complete control over customisation of the button layout is also really useful, because we all hold our cameras in different ways and prioritise certain functions over others.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque (SL 601) Dan Feldman (5 of 14)

Sheikh Zayed Mosque (SL 601) Dan Feldman (6 of 14)

Sheikh Zayed Mosque (SL 601) Dan Feldman (7 of 14)

The added value the SL gives to my M lenses was also important in my decision to buy it. I knew I was getting a Q-like sensor and, frankly, would have been happy enough to trade in my typ 240 for a newer M body containing that sensor; but the fact that the EVF makes manual focusing such a breeze and that the SL body design sacrifices no visible image quality when using M-mount lenses means I have a whole new way to use my line-up. It’s not as gratifying to use as a rangefinder, in my opinion, but you’re giving up a little fun for a more predictable result.

As for the image quality of the SL / 24-90 zoom combination, I’m going to let the pictures accompanying this report speak for themselves. These were all handheld snapshots taken in relatively low light over the course of about an hour, as I walked about the grounds and interiors of this spectacular structure as a tourist, then processed the DNGs quickly in Lightroom on the same evening. I don’t know of any other camera-lens pairing that can surpass these results for this kind of off-the-cuff photography.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque (SL 601) Dan Feldman (8 of 14)

Sheikh Zayed Mosque (SL 601) Dan Feldman (9 of 14)

Sheikh Zayed Mosque (SL 601) Dan Feldman (10 of 14)

My experience of using the 24-90 lens has also been excellent. Of course it is large, and I don’t really use it when just walking about with the SL (I use the 35mm and 50mm M lenses for street photography, for instance), but when you are planning to visit locations where you want the full standard focal length range and know the size of the lens won’t intimidate people (e.g. for wildlife, landscapes, architecture, family pictures), it’s a great option to have.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque (SL 601) Dan Feldman (11 of 14)

Sheikh Zayed Mosque (SL 601) Dan Feldman (12 of 14)

Sheikh Zayed Mosque (SL 601) Dan Feldman (13 of 14)

I’ve now had the SL for around a month and will be using it for all types of photograph over the course of 2016. I’ll report back with examples of how the camera and 24-90 zoom lens handle different challenges. But for now, I can’t speak highly enough of my experience using Leica’s latest, and am ready to commit long-term to this new system.”

Dan

Dec 282015
 

Heavy Metal Leica Head. The Leica Q in Concert. 

By Daniel Ciric

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Yes that`s a term .. at least for me. I love Heavy Metal and all types of music that go in that direction. I also love Leica Cameras. So what’s the best way to combine that? Correct, music (in this case concert) photography with a Leica (Q). It’s very rare to see concert shooters walking around with expensive Leicas, especially at Metal or Hardcore shows, as these concerts get pretty intense sometimes and when you end up in the moshpit you definitely don’t want to have big, expensive and fragile camera equipment with you. The Leica Q is a good compromise. I am a tall and “beefy” guy and I know how to use my elbows, plus the Leica Q is so small that its easy to stay in the pit, shoot photos and not get your camera knocked out of your hands.

My Settings for a Concert on my Leica Q:

First of all .. GO MANUAL! It’s technically not possible that the camera understands what shots you want to get, especially at a concert.

Aperture

Wide open. The Q offers here an incredible 1.7 Aperture!

ISO

I usually start at 1600 and adapt according to the show. When the light gets super bride I take advantage of that and go down to around ISO 400 and if I have bad luck with the lighting I can always go up to 6400 without any trouble.

Shutter speed

Similar story. I start at 1/100 and adapt to the movement of the artists. Some hardcore bands move and jump around like crazy and when I want to capture that properly and freeze the action I have to go up to at least 1/200

Metering Mode

I personally switch around between the three modes on the Q as the light is always changing and is totally different at each show.

Autofocus

You have to go with AF-C (continuous) and it works great on the Q!

White balance

I always shoot auto white balance. With concert photography white balance has to be fixed in post. That’s my opinion at least.

RAW (DNG) or JPEG?

With the Q I always shoot DNG-JPEG. I love to have control of a RAW (DNG) file. I personally don’t need the JPEGS, which annoys me a little bit, but I think/hope that Leica will fix this with a firmware update so I can shoot just DNG files.

OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation)

In my case of (really, really crazy) concert photography I leave it off. I tried to use it with OIS on, but for me personally I get better results when it’s turned off.
Why the Q for concerts?

I LOVE the simplicity! I also shoot with a Sony a6000, which has so many gadgets and settings that no serious shooter needs. The Q has exactly what I need. No less and no more and I just love that! Some people don’t care about these things, but I do. Maybe because of my Media Design background where I also try to be as efficient and simple as possible. The switch from single to continuous shooting is so amazing and easy going. It can be turned on without looking, which is very good and bad lighting at a show. The singer starts to jump around and you want to capture more photos to get that „one shot“ and I just pull a little bit with my finger and there you go! The Shutter speed dial is also super good to use in bad lighting conditions. At a concert you have to use your camera without moving it from your eye and the only time I have to this with the Q is to change the ISO, which is totally fine and an „alright“ compromise. I personally work a lot more with the shutter speed during a show. Using the Q at a Metal show is so intuitive, that it almost hurts me when I have to use my Sony (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the a6000 and I will keep it until it dies, but the Q just makes more sense to me).

To quote Steve “This camera just makes me want to go out and shoot photos”. Of course I do have my requirements like a full-frame sensor, wide aperture and stuff like that, but when a camera makes me get off the couch and go photograph some crazy metal heads is a good camera to me. I am a Sony freak and I always used Sonys, but no Sony I was ever using gave me that feeling. If my finances would allow it I would replace all my Sonys with the Leica SL with some lenses to never lose that “I wanna get something done” feeling. Maybe that’s why I sometimes go out to shows JUST with the Q without the backup of one of my Sonys.

Sony, please don’t hate me .. I will always be your friend! :)

What I also love is the crop button. Of course the photos are just cropped when you use it, which you could do easily in post, but it really gives me the feeling of having 3 lenses with me. I also don’t need to mention the quality build. „Made in Germany“ .. I think that says it all. It just feels so amazing and just RIGHT to hold it and use it as much as I can. I just love that camera.

I found some blogs, where editors say that Q is not for everyone, which is true. It has a 28 mm lens, which is not very common and many people don’t know how to handle that I guess. There are also some smaller flaws, which are pretty easy to fix with a firmware update and hopefully it will come at some point! All in all it’s THE PERFECT CAMERA for me as a concert photographer and someone who loves to have a small, black and sexy camera with a red dot on it to capture the life on the streets as well.

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Dec 242015
 
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Through the Looking Glass – A In-Depth Review of the Leica SL

By Ashwin Rao

Dear friends, I am here with a review of the Leica SL, Leica’s latest system camera and its first serious foray into the mirrorless digital interchangeable camera market – if you don’t count its rangefinder cameras. By now, you know that the SL is Steve’s 2015 Camera of the Year. He praises the camera for its design, build, utilization, and amazing VF, as well as its overall implementation. I wanted to offer my own experience with the camera, having spent several weeks using the camera with its native 24-90 lens, a variety of modern and vintage Leica M lenses, and several Leica R lenses. I have found the Leica SL to be the modern evolution of Leica’s ethos and vision, representing both its present and its drive to create a bright future.

Leica’s marketing campaign for the SL highlighted its professional attributes and its ‘mirror-less’ designation. For Leica, this is much like viewing the story of Alice in Wonderland “Through the Looking Glass”, in which Alice climbs through the mirror into the new and fantastic alternate world beyond. This turns out to be a very appropriate analogy for Leica’s effort with the SL.

If you are not interested in reading past this first paragraph, I will say this: The Leica SL is a highly useable, well-built, well-conceived, functional camera that targets both M users and new users seeking the Leica brand with autofocus implementation. Its clean design harkens to such well-designed cameras as Leicaflex and subsequent R system cameras. However, some of its design queues come from the M system. Its layout, once learned, allows the user to meld his or her photographic style and eccentricities with the camera’s functionality. In many ways, as I will come to discuss, the Leica SL represents Leica’s ultimate bridge camera, a “Jack-of-all-trades” device that ties together many systems into a cohesive package. And, you know what? It does a great job accomplishing this task in a way that only Leica can achieve.

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At first glance….

I first caught wind of the SL like many of you, in the weeks preceding its official announcement. Reading the tealeaves and given the recent release of the incredible Leica Q, I presumed that Leica was set to release an interchangeable Q or something of a Q/M hybrid. It only made sense to carve out a niche aimed squarely at Leica’s base, that is many of us who enjoy quality craftsmanship coupled with the Joy of photography. Given Leica’s install base of rangefinder users, many of us who are not getting any younger, a mirrorless camera, less reliant on the RF focusing mechanism, made sense to permit its users to focus their manual focus lenses with precision while being afforded an opportunity to use newly designed AF lenses. A compact, sleek competitor to steal back those of us, including myself, who had taken to using our M lenses on Sony A-series bodies for a compact solution.

Well, Leica certainly threw most of us a curve ball when they officially announced the SL. At first glance, I was dismissive. Here was a camera, that looked much like an overweight Sony A series body. It seemed boring in its design, offering nothing new that others had not already designed. I was doubtful that it would be ergonomically useful for M lenses. I was uncertain that a camera/lens system using contrast-detect focus only could achieve reliable and quick focus. As much as I love the size and functionality of many Leica cameras, including the M series, I also am a huge fan of a camera’s haptics (how it feels in hand) and design cues (how it looks). With the Leica SL, I was far from convinced on first viewing. However, coming from my overwhelmingly positive experience with the incredible Leica Q, I decided to reserve judgment and keep my order in place with Ken Hansen (honestly, one of the best Leica dealers on the planet) to see what Leica had up its sleeve.

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In the weeks that followed, the initial reviews by such great reviewers as Jono Slack, Kristian Dowling, Sean Reid, Jeff Keller (DP Review), Jim Fisher (PC Mag), and Lori Grunin (CNET), who had the privilege of first trying the camera, were overwhelmingly positive Despite its new release, it was never described as a limited first generation product. Very few bugs were encountered, other than those described as issues related to user preference (grip size, for example). The camera was described as operationally fast, built to the highest standard, and remarkably facile as an image-maker.

I was able first to test out the Leica at the Leica Store Bellevue (another great dealer) when the regional representative, Brad Weeks, brought in the camera for a first look. My first impression on holding the camera was…doubt. Yes, on first handling, I admit that I became even more uncertain about the camera. While I found that it was incredibly well built, it felt immediately larger than expected. The body itself is not much bigger than a Leica M, until you factor in its large grip. At first, the grip was a turn off, to be honest, but over time, I have found it to be very well implemented (more on this later). Further, as I attached the SL 24-90 mm lens, the only lens available for the camera on launch, onto the SL, I was daunted by how large the camera felt…It felt like a bulky SLR!!!!

I had given up on such cameras due to size years ago, as I found that I could produce more pleasing images with smaller cameras. Now, here in my hands was Leica’s SL (minus the R)…a funny play on words/letters/what have you, but drats, it felt like an SLR. Next up on my concern list was the button system and menu layout. On first handling the camera, I found the lack of clarity and definition around the buttons to be frustrating. I was not sure what buttons to press, or how to press them to get the camera to do what I wanted. I was quickly told how to focus magnify, and then futzed around, taking a few shots, leaving me with an uneasy sense that I was not sure how to use the camera…
Bummer, right?

Well, not exactly. In fact, not at all… Read on…..

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Learning the interface, and giving the camera second chance

I must say that the Leica elves in Wetzlar sure had magic up their sleeves. The more that I ended up using the camera which I first doubted, the more I began to see an output that is a genius of design implementation. Let’s get into this a bit more….
Let me come out and say it right away. The Leica SL is not an immediately intuitive camera. However, in the case of useability, all good things come to those who wait and who actually use this camera. At first, I was daunted by the camera’s “4 button” (IT’s actually got a few more than 4) interface, but as I began to sort the camera out things became clear.

1. Each button has different purposes. A quick push gives you one level of access, primarily allowing you to get into the camera’s menus. A LONGER push & hold allows custom assigned tasks to come to light. Even better, one can custom-set each of the button’s functions to suit one’s user preference. For me, I set the camera’s principal 4 back buttons to select: 1) ISO, 2) Exposure Comp, 3) lens selection – to choose what M lens or R lens, if such a lens was not coded), 4) white balance. I set the front black button to select metering mode.

2. The rear scroll wheel, if pressed and held, allows access to P, A, S, M modes. When shooting with M or R lenses, I generally use aperture priority or manual modes (with aperture set to whatever I want). In Aperture priority mode, the camera can be set to recognize the 6-bit coding of a lens and correspondingly set minimal shutter speed to 1/focal length or other options. I personally chose 1/2x-focal length)

3. The top scroll wheel is not active for aperture priority mode with manual lenses, but in manual mode becomes a shutter speed dial. Nice implementation again…

4. The joystick: Another great way to move around in the menu systems, as well as a way to review and zoom through images. It also functions as an AEL button. Now, with an updated firmware, the joystick is repurposed to allow focus magnification with Manual lenses mounted…This is a great update and allows one to use his/her thumb to zoom in without having to use his/her other hand to magnify field of view and achieve critical focus.

5. Menus. Once you get used to moving around in the menus, using both the 4 buttons and the scroll wheel, things become gradually more and more easy.

The Leica SL represents a product of clean, modern, minimalistic design. I found that it took me a few days to adjust to the menu design and layout of the camera, but once set, I have not had to make any changes, save for updating the firmware and thus permitting use of the joystick for focus magnification, making the camera even more pleasurable to use.

In the end, I settled on the following configuration for my assigned custom functions:

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Key feature – the viewfinder

Many of you have experienced the Leica SL’s incredible 4.4 megapixel “EyeRes” electronic viewfinder. In my opinion, the SL’s viewfinder represents the state of the art as of 2016. In decent light, the viewfinder’s refresh rate seems fantastic, and there’s no lagginess. Even in low light, the EVF performs admirably. Leica has even implemented a focus aid that many have not talked about. When magnifying the image (when an M or L lens is mounted), the image is artificially brightened. This effective trick is effective even in the lowest of light, and such enables accurate focus with M and R lenses in circumstances in which focusing may not be otherwise achievable.

When you first stare through the EVF, you’ll be amazed. It’s much like viewing a 4K TV for the first time. The experience is a bit overwhelming, and while it’s not quite as clear as looking through an optical viewfinder in good light, the benefits of being able to “see” in any light with the added perk of additional focus aids or shooting information makes the EVF spectacular.

Further, the viewfinder feels HUGE, providing a 0.8x magnification, one of the best available on the market, far surpassing the EVF’s produced for Sony and Fuji cameras. Thus, we have a huge viewfinder, capable of providing the user with accurate and precise focus in any light. Might this sound like a great non-rangefinder solution for your M lenses? Um, yes!

On further use with M lenses, I found that I could achieve my post precise focus with lenses with narrow depth of field. Lenses such as the Leica Noctilux, Konica Hexanon 60 mm f/1.2, and all Summilux lenses, have dramatically shallow depth of field that is incredibly easy to focus using the EyeRes view finder. In fact, it could be said that slower lenses with deeper depth of field (particularly wide lenses), take a bit more effort to focus critically, and one should be sure to focus-magnify to confirm critical focus.

Speaking of focusing aids, the EyeRes EVF permits focus peaking. However, when enabled (somewhat awkwardly by selecting different views by quick pressing the bottom right button), focus peaking effects are quite light. For me, using the “red” focus peaking permitted the easiest-to-see focus peaking effect. That being said, I am not sure that most people would need to use focus peaking to confidently achieve focus with their manual focus lenses on the SL. The viewfinder is that good, and the EyeRes viewfinder sees the plane of focus quite easily.

Manual focusing with the SL is a true joy, and the SL’s viewfinder is a convincing complement for autofocus composition as well.

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Haptics (How the SL feels in hand with SL, M, and R lenses)

In hand, The Leica SL is a surprisingly comfortable and responsive camera. It’s equally nimble working as an autofocus camera, when the SL 24-90 mm lens is mounted, though in this manner, it become a large, hefty camera, very similar in field to most medium size SLR cameras. Thankfully, it’s as responsive as most of its SLR cousins, though I’d imagine that a Nikon D3 series or Canon 1D series may be more responsive for sports shooting.

Make no mistake. The SL 24-90 mm f/2.8-4 lens is bulky. It’s not terribly heavy, though when mounted on the camera, the set up does feel somewhat front heavy. I certainly do hope that Leica future lens efforts for this system balance somewhat better and are somewhat smaller, though I suspect that Leica is not going for a size win with the SL. The upcoming SL 50 mm f/1.4, which is rumored to be the optically best 50 mm lens ever made, looks rather bulky. Certainly with all of the extra real estate, Leica can really push the performance of these lenses to the bleeding edge.

The camera does change character when using Leica M lenses. Instead of feeling large and voluminous, as it feels with the 24-90, it becomes far more nimble. The SL body in fact occupies a footprint that’s not all that dissimilar to a Leica M with half case added (with grip), and thus, after using the camera with M lenses via the M-adapter-T accessory, the camera began to feel like a great option with larger M lenses, such as the Noctilux. Even smaller M lenses, including the 50 mm f/2 APO Summicron, feel like nice fits for the camera, though truth be told, they seem slightly small on this body.

With R lenses, the difference is split. R lenses seem, in many ways, to be a natural fit for the camera. They are mounted using a slightly awkward dual lens adapter setup, coupling the M-adapter T to the R-adapter-M. Doing so then permits access to the R lens menu, which allows the camera to correct appropriately for any lens specific aberrations. Thankfully, the dual adapter set up works well, though I am personally waiting for the R-adapter-SL to be introduced to make things simpler and potentially to enable additional features in ROM lenses. With R lenses mounted, the SL is transformed into a “small SLR” in terms of feel. R lenses seem to be appropriately sized for the SL, particularly its prime lenses, and are a joy to use on this camera. For those of you looking for a more permanent set up for your R lenses, the SL is a far better body for your lenses that the M240 body.

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Image quality

So how does the Leica SL perform? How is image quality? I can say convincingly that the camera’s sensor performs admirably, producing fantastic, beautiful, natural colors in outdoor/natural light. Some inconsistency is encountered, particularly in skin tones, when certain indoor lighting or mixed lighting is present. Skin tones, as with many digital sensors, tend to take on an orange hue, and the red channel seems overemphasized. Some have commented on a “tomato face” tendency of recent Leica sensors (M240, in particular), and at times, in artificial light, the SL does not escape this. It takes a bit of effort to adjust colors to obtain pleasing skin tones. Yet the possibilities are there. All of that said, I continue to prefer the M9’s color palette to the current Leica offerings, but the SL does reasonably well to produce nice colors most of the time.

Such affects are generally abated through careful selection of white balance. The SL adds a nice “Grey Card” white balancing feature which can be very helpful in achieving consistent white balance. Colors coming from the sensor behave much in the same way as output from the Leica Q, and as many have postulated, I suspect that the sensors are very similar or exactly the same.

However, I will say that the high ISO and shadow performance of the SL surpasses the Q, with less banding when underexposures or shadows are lifted. In general, the camera does a great job at suppressing noise or producing tasteful grain-like noise through ISO 3200. At ISO 6400, dynamic range is noticeably decreased, through grain is reasonably controlled and detail remains crisp.

In good light, the SL is a dream camera, producing some of the most natural and convincing images, regardless of lens used. I have used modern and vintage M glass, R lenses, and the SL24-90, and the sensor seems to play quite well with many types of glass from many different eras. In darker, muddier light, the SL tends to perform well through ISO 6400, and I generally have avoided ISO’s higher than 6400.

Many of you would ask if I prefer the output of the SL at base ISO to the venerable Leica M9? For me, finally, I have found a camera rivals the M9 in its color and crispness reproduction and sensor that suits me so well for my M lenses. I loved my M9, using it steadily for 5 years, but ultimately moved on to try new gear due to the limitations and issues with the M9’s sensor (limited ISO, corrosion). I was first impressed by the output of the Q, and now, I am equally impressed, if not more so, by the SL, which improves upon the Q’s sensor performance while performing admirably with SL, M, and R lenses. Colors are natural, and white balance is more consistent than the M9. Images from the SL do pop in that 3 dimensional way, much like M9 files. And to benefit the SL, ISO performance FAR exceeds the M9’s CCD sensor output. Summicron lenses are capable in low light. Noctilux lenses can see in the deepest and darkest of nights, in the shadows of this mirrorless world.

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Autofocus performance

The Leica SL achieves accurate autofocus of daily life activities without any issues, as long as a scene is reasonably light with reasonable contrast. I would say that AF is quite convincing in bright light almost all of the time. I have only occasionally had issues achieving infinity focus when shooting low contrast images (such as a hazy horizon), but this is a rare occurrence.
The Leica SL’s focus algorithms are challenged by very fast moving subjects coming in and out of plane (such as a sporting event), and I am yet to be sold on the camera as an autofocus option for fast moving sports (US football, soccer, basketball) That being said, it’s quite possible that my own technique is the limiting factor, though my hit rate, using both AF-S and AF-C, with various frame rates, was variable at best. I suspect that for slower moving action (such as fashion shows, slower moving sports, and weddings). Ultimately, I do not believe that the SL is designed with sports photographers in mind. After all, how many sports photographers would shoot a 1 lens rig (24-90 is all that’s available) at a 12,800 price tag? Not many that I know, especially when Canon and Nikon offer so many more options.

That being said, there are many professionals who will adore the SL and will find its autofocus capabilities to be exemplary. I suspect that the camera may well be aimed at professional wedding photographers, particularly those who can afford an expensive rig. Destination photographers and fashion photographers would be likely added targets. In fact, most pros that have invested in a Leica S system may well be suited for using the SL as a back up or second body, particularly when an S lens adapter is made available.

All in all, I have found autofocus performance with the Leica SL and 24-90 to be more than adequate for most shooting circumstances, save very fast moving sports in which the action is unpredictably moving in and out of the plane of focus.

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SL lens performance

While I can honestly say the the SL 24-90 lens deserves its own review, I will say that performance of the SL is equal to having a selection of primes within the focal length range. If you are willing to live with the size of the SL 24-90 and its variable and somewhat slow aperture, the lens produces incredible results on the SL, with pleasing out of focus (bokeh) areas and critically sharp in-focus areas (save at 90 mm, were there’s a subtle drop off in sharpness, which I’d call minor).

A camera with Multiple Personalities

The Leica SL is truly a camera with multiple personalities, depending on what system of lenses is employed on the camera. As mentioned earlier, the system feels very much like a pro SLR rig when the 24-90 lens is used. I can see this as a perfect camera set up for wedding and landscape or wildlife photographers, who benefit from weather sealing, fast autofocus, and incredibly image quality of the SL lens.
The camera becomes a “big” M camera when using M lenses. With R lenses, the camera feels like a compact SLR.

As mentioned above, performance of the Leica SL 24-90 mm lens is admirable. Similarly, Leica M lenses perform very well on the SL, and I have yet to see any images, which would have been improved by using the M240/9/Monochrom sensor, in terms of edge performance. I have found that using the SL with M lenses provides a different, yet equally effective way of seeing the world with M lenses. Many will prefer the rangefinder focusing method, particularly those with good eye sight and familiary with RF focusing, but for most others, it will be easier to focus your M lenses on an SL body with far more consistency.

R lenses perform equally well. To date, I have tested the 50 summicron R, the 80-200 Vario Elmar f/4, the 60 mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit R, and the 180 mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt lenses. Leica R lenses are known to be exemplary performers and will surely do well on this 24 megapixel sensor, which does not stretch the lesnes’ resolving powers to the max. Given the telecentric design of R lenses, they are likely to perform marginally better at the corners than M lenses, though many, including Sean Reid and Jono Slack, have tested M lenses and found them to perform well on the SL (and not as well on Sony full frame bodies).

All in all, the Leica SL performs admirable in all of these venues. It’s truly Leica’s bridge camera, allowing users to tie many systems together, use any number of lenses on the body with adequate to admirable performance. Leica should be applauded for managing such a feat in a body that’s designed to be its own high performance pro camera. Color me impressed…

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Who is this camera for?

I can see the Leica SL as an appealing camera for several types of customers.

1. Leica brand loyalists who wish for a bridge camera with the Leica badge
2. Individuals with reduced eye-sight and a large install of M lenses or R lenses
3. Previously abandoned R lens users
4. Wealthy amateurs or pros who want the Leica brand in a pro rig
5. Leica S users wanting a second body
6. Individuals not pleased with M240 image rendering (preferring the M9’s rendering…this camera is closer to that)
7. Landscape and destination photographers who benefit from weather sealing
8. Wedding photographers seeking brand identity and the highest possible IQ

Ultimately, the market will dictate the case regarding who the SL is aimed at. I consider myself to be a Leica brand loyalist, and I am a dedicated M camera shooter. My eyesight (so far) is fine, and I don’t have a large install of M lenses. I occasionally shoot professionally, but most of what I shoot is for my own pleasure. Leica’s are my one life’s guilty pleasure, and thus, I am inclined to try what they offer as long as their offerings provide a new appeal. The Leica SL is a camera with great appeal, a camera that will likely grow on you with time. I imagine that a mature SL line may eventually steal some M users, but at the end of the day, may create more fans of the Leica brand by offering a camera that’s capable of broad appeal and impressive functionality.

Pros
1. Incredible EyeRes EVF – 4.4 megapixels, 0.8x magnification, minimal lag – best in class (for now)
2. Build quality – Built like a tank
3. Weather sealed for use in all conditions (with SL lens mounted)
4. “Jack-of-all-trades camera” – Can take M, R, SL, Cine and eventually S lenses. Works well in many settings, using different approaches to imaging focus and composition.
5. Clean interface (once you are used to it)
6. Color reproduction, particularly in natural light
7. Robust high ISO images.

Cons
1. Bulky if thought of as an M camera replacement
2. Grip may not suit everyone. Best for big hands
3. Haptics with small M lenses is a bit unusual, though functional
4. Learning curve. The camera is not immediately intuitive
5. Very limited native lens selection

Pride of Ownership

Over the years, I have owned and used many camera systems from many manufacturers. Each camera that I have used has had its merits and weaknesses, and some have engendered an intense pride in ownership, given a number of factors that made me excited and motivated to take photos. For me, the ultimate example of such a camera for me was the original M Monochrom. I found intense joy from this camera, as it both challenged and inspired me to become a better photographer. I was and am proud to own one, and when showing off photos taken with the camera, I will happy report that the image was made with this camera.

Each camera engenders a joy of ownership for different reasons. It’s the rare camera that engenders a pride of ownership. The Leica SL is such a camera. When you use it, you feel the confident build of the camera. You experience the detail and effort that was put into designing a tool for you, the photographer. You sense the history of the Leica brand as it stands by this product, with Leica’s incredibly rich history to back up and substantiate the camera’s existence. Yes, the Leica SL is a 1st generation product. While it may be the natural successor to the Leica R system, it’s really a unique system with its own strengths and weaknesses. Sure, it’s not as compact as an M system camera. Yet, it uses M lenses with aplomb. Sure, it does not have the R system’s amazing optical viewfinders, but this mirrorless camera offers a novel way of seeing, with a clarity not seen before. The fact that you can use literally any Leica lens within Leica’s own ecosystem engenders further confidence that this is a camera that has enormous capabilities. In your hand will be a camera that can handle many styles, many perspectives. IT can serve as a color solution for your M lenses. It can serve to give re-birth to your dormant R lenses. The SL 24-90 may be the best performing normal zoom lens ever designed.

All in all, I am proud to own the Leica SL. I am excited to present the images here as representations of how the camera has inspired me. I am sure that if you elect to pay the steep price for this camera, you will be similarly motivated to go out and shoot, and that you will be impressed by the results coming from the camera. I hope to see you out and about, Leica SL in hand. Ready!….Aim!….Image Capture!

Best,
Ashwin

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Dec 212015
 
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The Leica 50 Summicron f/2 APO Lens Review Part 2 – Leica SL

By Steve Huff

Ever since shooting the $8,000 Leica 50 APO on the Leica M 240 a year and a half ago I have been smitten by this tiny, compact and amazing performing 50mm lens. I have never experienced a 50mm quite like it and it was the ONLY LENS I used on the M 240 (and I used them all) that made the camera perform on another level than it normally does. The color, the contrast, the pop, the details, the smooth bokeh that is reminiscent of classic and modern, the super smooth slide out hood, the complete lack of distortion and CA, the ability to turn 35mm full frame into what starts to look like Medium Format.

I have never used any lens like the 50 APO as it has the ability to bring out the best of your sensor when used on the Leica M 240 or SL. When used on the Sony A7s and A7SII it is equally as amazing but on the A7RII it does suffer from soft edges and a tad bit of softness in general when compared to using it on the A7S or a Leica. I will show you a side by side later on down in this review of just that.

50 APO, f/2, SL. Love the way this lens and camera does B&W. MUST click the image to see it the way it was meant to be seen.

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But let’s be clear, this lens is made for a Leica. Also, it is better than my photo abilities and skills, and would probably remain so for the rest of my life. :) At this price, it SHOULD be reserved for real pros who earn income from their photographs, well, that is how I would expect it to be, but us enthusiasts also love it as many of us dream about this beautiful hand constructed 50mm masterpiece. I think many of us WANT IT simply because of the claim it makes…BEST 50 IN THE WORLD. Some even say BEST production lens in the world, period.

The Color. The Rendering. The Buttery Smooth Bokeh. Leica SL + 50 APO

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If you missed my review of this lens on the Leica M, check HERE. Then click HERE to see some shots on a Sony A7s (gorgeous rendering). Then see more of it on the M when I shot some COMICON photos.

This lens as shot on the M 240.

The 50 APO and the M 240 are a perfect match, without question, best lens I have used on the M 240, ever. More of these are at my Comicon report HERE. Had great lighting that day as well!

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OK, so here we go!

This Part 2 review will mainly go into how it does on the SL, Leica’s new, and IMO, best ever digital camera (and my camera of the year 2015). The SL is a marvel for SO MANY reasons. It is so hard to convey in words and the fact is, no one will really “get it” until they use one for a day or two and use it with M lenses as well as the native 24-90. Then you will say “Holy Shit, this is amazing in all ways”.

As of today, December 21st 2015, the SL is my #1 go to daily camera with a 28 Elmarit M lens and the 50 APO with a 90 APO to be added soon (when I can afford it). No camera, even the M, has given me as much joy of use as this SL. It truly is like shooting a Mini S Typ and the EVF WILL SPOIL YOU, it really will. But hey, we are here to talk about the 50 APO on the SL, so let’s get to some samples!

This shot was taken at night, in my home. The only light source was the one behind Debby and the one above her, in my Kitchen. So indoor Kitchen lights. Shot at f/2, this is pretty damn good for the circumstances. 

YOU MUST CLICK IT to see it correctly! 

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…and a quick and dirty B&W conversion, just by sliding down the saturation, no filters or tricks. 

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If you read the 50 APO review as used on the Leica M, you will see that it gave some of the best color, contrast and pop ever seen from the M sensor. This lens performs mostly the same way on the SL. It has striking contrast, gorgeous color, and sharpness anywhere you need it. Again, click on the image below of this CD cover and marvel at the detail. bokeh, color..and keep in mind, this is out of camera as shot at night in my Kitchen, with my nasty Kitchen lights. The AWB nailed this, and the lens brought out the amazing pop of this lens.

CLICK IT! Shot at f/2 wide open, where this lens LOVES to be shot. In fact, it is optimized for f/2 and I would NEVER shoot this lens at f/8 as that would be a crime. IN fact, once you get to f/8 diffraction will lower your IQ, so stay with f/2-f/4 for the best IQ and character. 

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Using an ICE LIGHT 2 that I am testing, I shot this with the light at its lowest output setting in a totally dark room. ISO 4000, f/2, JPEG

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Details and Bokeh. Look at the detail where I focused (crop can be seen when clicked on) and look at the silky smooth bokeh. No, the 50 Lux can not do this, I tried. 

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It will cost ya!

The Leica 50 APO lens price sounds absurd to 99.9% of those who love photography. Some get mad about this lens as I see some saying “My 50 1.4 Nikon can do this”, or “My 50 Lux beats the APO”…this happens with people due to the cost of the lens. The high price makes some out there get negative and mad without even realizing what it took for Leica to even release this lens. This lens was a nightmare for Leica early on. HUGE amounts of finished lenses would be thrown in the dumpster as they were not perfect.  A much higher number of lenses were thrown out than kept and Leica was probably starting to regret ever having this lens made. The 1st batch sold had flare issues, and had to be corrected yet again by Leica. Today though, all new 50 APO’s sold are perfect, or at least they should be. Leica has the production of this lens down by now, without question. Mine is distortion proof, artifact proof, flare proof and gives me the same bite and color in any light I use it in. It’s a special lens for sure.

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It was also a statement piece from Leica to tell everyone “This is the best lens we can make at this time, period”. Coming from the king of optics, Leica, we knew it had to be special but I am a big fan of the old 50 Summicron, which I still adore.

But when side by side the color difference between the two is MASSIVE. The micro details with the APO are just not there in the standard, the Bokeh of the old version was considered by MANY to be awful. I never had an issue with it but it could get busy in some situations. Not the APO. This lens has the best of everything, and while we do not get the classic slight bokeh swirl of a Summilux at f/1.4 we do get a unique rendering that is very pleasing to the eye.

Many I know who own it call it “BUTTER”.

The rendering is just so nice. I shot these roses at a gravesite and added some Vignetting myself for effect. The 2nd shot, again, in my home at night! The color, bokeh and details are incredible. 

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This lens was designed by Peter Karbe. A genius and IMO, probably the best and coolest lens designer in the world. See the video below where he talks about the 50 APO. Then click here to read an interview with him by Thorsten Overgaard where they discuss the details (and Thorsten’s skepticism) of the 50 APO.


The old 50 Summicron was designed by Mandler and is one of his last designs. It is also a legendary lens that has stood the test of time again and again, always considered at the top of the 50mm heap. It has a way of shooting poeple and portraits that borders on magical at times, if your lighting is just right. With the new 50 APO, it seems any light is OK as this lens takes what you aim it at, and somehow, even in the worst of light makes it look great. It is a huge step up from the old version but even so I still love the old one as it gives a totally different rendering.

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1st image  – in my office, no light on, at night. Only light source is my display. I shot this at ISO 2000 on the SL with the 50 APO at f/2. Click it to see how smooth it is, how fantastic the color rendering is, and how it just looks so good, even at ISO 2000 without any noise reduction. Must click it!

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This is my dog Olive sitting in a light patch that was coming in from my window. For this I converted to B&W and enhanced contrast more to give a striking look. I missed perfect focus on this one as she was moving her head..

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Using the 50 APO on the Leica SL was a treat. No rangefinder to worry about (going out of alignment) so nailing focus was pretty easy (unless you are trying  to focus on something that is moving, then the 24-90 would be perfect) with that massive bright beautiful EVF (which should be on all cameras today) I managed to use no peaking, peaking and magnification and nail photos. The best method though for me, using a manual lens is using the magnification. It will ensure you nail focus every time. I maybe missed focus on 1 out of 10 shots using no peaking, and maybe 1 out of 20 using peaking. By comparison, using it on an M you can get 100% in focus shots if your RF is in alignment. If it is not you have to learn tricks on how to nail focus and it’s a hassle and rarely works, until your M’s RF is fixed. So on the SL this lens is a joy to use. Never frustrating.

More 50 APO..all should be at f/2. Click them for larger versions. 

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But who would pay $8k for this lens when a 50 Lux is less than half price?

That is the question and to be 100% honest, this lens will not make anyone a better photographer. As I said, it goes beyond my skill set but I still love the lens. Do I need it? NO WAY. Would the older 50 cron do me just as good? Sure, as I no longer shoot pro for money. My main shooting these days, personal shooting, consists of family, trips, friends, etc. Something my Sony RX1000 IV is perfect for. So why do I have a 50 APO? Because I love camera gear, lenses, and many of you do as well. We know we do not “need” an item such as this, but we “want” it and wanting something like this is dangerous!

Luckily there have been special prices on this lens recently. Overstock cleared out three of them at $6000 last week (see post here) and you can find special prices every now and then on PopFlash.com or by emailing Ken Hansen. I received mine, new in box, as part of a trade deal I did with Ken Hansen because there is no way I could just part with $7-8K for a lens like this. The mental strain would be awful as I would constantly be saying to myself “Why did you buy this…you do not need an $8000 lens”!!! Lol.

With that said, shooting with and owning  this lens is a special thing. I feel blessed to actually own it, along with my other gear (SL, A7RII, RX100, RX1, etc) and I know that one day wether that is tomorrow or next year, I will get a shot using this lens that I will want to frame, and then it will make it all worth it. Hell, the joy I get from it is massive and I do indeed prefer it to the 50 Summilux ASPH I just traded towards it in all ways, though I still love the 50 Summilux.

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LENSRENTALS.COM TESTED THE TOP 50’s, and here is what they found..more HERE. The 50 APO beats the others..OTUS, SIGMA ART and more..so no, the Sigma or Otus or any other 50 does not technically match the smallest of them all, the 50 APO.

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Leica has a way of making you want ALL of their lenses. If I had 10 million in the bank I’d buy them all, and just put them in a shelf/case to use when I wanted. But as it is, I will be happy with my 28/50 and eventually my 90 cron when I can get it.

I know of over 10 who own this 50 APO and all of them love it and say its a lifetime keeper. Many prefer it to the Noctilux as the Noct look is magical but must be used sparingly otherwise your images start looking the same and you may start relying on the 50 Noct bokeh to make your images stand out (many do this). I feel shooting a lens like a 50 f/2, any version, will make you think about composition more than a Noct as with the Noct your main effect is blowing out anything but your subject. While it is a cool effect, once you shoot it daily for 2 weeks you will tire of that look. With a lens like this, the 50 APO, that will never happen. This is a legend already. A classic even today just a few years after its release. There is today, no 50mm like the 50 APO from Leica. Many may claim there is, or that their 50 can do the same but they really have no clue as you can’t until you use it. Put this lens in the hands of someone who can do magic with it and it will create magic.

if you have the cash and want a special 50mm for your M or SL, I’d go for the 50 APO hands down. If you do not have the cash, the 50 Lux, old 50 Cron or even the Zeiss 50 Planar can do the trick. All three of those have completely different rendering and I know a couple people who own them all and use them all. The 50 APO is about having the best 50 ever made, and I agree that it most certainly is the best 50 ever made so far. Yes, better than the big DSLR Zeiss Otus.

CLICK the images for larger and better!

The 50 APO is like going from full HD 1080 to 4K

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Quick Test By Request: The 50 APO on the SL and A7RII…

Sure, you can use the 50 APO on the Sony A7s and A7SII and get results up there with using it on a Leica. On the A7RII though the edges softness is there when shooting an image that would require sharp corner to corner performance such as a landscape at infinity. On the A7RII I’d take the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 over the 50 APO as you may get better results in most areas. 

Many asked me to do this comparison, so here it is. One landscape, and a couple of more normal shots.

Take a look below at two landscape style shots that I snapped. One with the SL and 50 APO and one with the A7RII and 50 APO. NO, these are not scientific as I do not do that for so many reasons. These are basically shots where I put the APO on one camera, aimed and shot and then did the same with the other. I was only testing here for soft edges, to see if it was an issue on the A7RII with the 50 APO. I’d love to see something from Sony like an A9 PRO that steps up the build, adds weather sealing, provides an EVF like the one in the SL and offers perfect performance for M glass, as the A7 series could be an amazing platform for M glass. They are almost there..and I feel like they will release a PRO body soon that aims at the SL. Just a hunch.

OK, here are the two quick shots. Take it for what it is. A shot with each camera using the same lens, same aperture. 

YOU HAVE TO CLICK THEM to see the crops correctly. 

1st up the Leica SL shot. Click it.

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Then the Sony A7RII shot..click it.

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You can see the soft corners on the Sony shot, and this is not a fault of the Sony, it is because this is an M lens adapted to be used on a camera it was not made for. Each generation of Sony A7 (now on Gen 2) improves on the M lens experience. As for now, the SL wins this one when using the 50 APO on each camera.

How about in normal shots?

Now, this is where it gets interesting. When shooting normal day to day shots of poeple, things, and generally shooting anything close in and wide open, you will not see these issues with the Sony and M lenses. Take a look:

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I STILL prefer the SL colors here but you can see the lens is now usable and workable on the Sony as the issues ONLY come into play when you want sharp edge to edge performance like the shots of the landscape above.

Yea, this lens is awesome..BUT…

This lens is a stunner but it’s not something we need to take great shots. Any lens can do that as the skill lies with YOU, not the lens. The lens becomes your paintbrush and yes, having as good of a lens as you can get will make your photos look better, it is up to you what you like in a lens or camera. Many will prefer cheaper alternatives because all lenses have different characteristics but if you want buttery smooth files, bokeh and micro contrast for days..the 50 APO will get you there.

VS the Zeiss 50 Planar f/2

One of the highest rated RF M lenses by Ziess is the 50 Planar f/2 which is an alternative to the old Leica Summicron, and yes, even the APO. While not as sharp, and with busier bokeh and some barrel distortion, the Planar will never match the APO but it will get you 75% there for under $1000. Here is a comparison.

1st Image up top, the 50 APO and SL – MUST click it to see crop.

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And now the Zeiss 50 Planar at f/2. Not nearly as sharp, has some distortion and the Bokeh is more nervous. But even with that, at under $1000 this is a great lens. 

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I will be shooting the 50 APO lens more and more and will be adding more images to this review over the next 3-4 weeks (Already added many new images since posting this a week ago). You can also check out my Leica SL gallery which will also be added to every week with the SL and all kinds of lenses. You can see that page HERE. 

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You can buy this lens at my preferred Leica dealers if you are interetsed:

Ken Hansen – [email protected]  – just e-mail him with any questions!

PopFlash.com – See their website, they will sometimes have great buys on this lens!

B&H Photo – The #1 photo shop in the world!

Amazon – You can find this lens there, even with Prime shipping often.

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HLPHH

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