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Mar 282017
 

Get A Grip On Your M10
The Match Technical Thumbs Up EP-MX Review

By Ashwin Rao – Ashwin runs the Leica M10 User Group on Facebook HERE

Welcome to another edition of “Let’s Get Excited – The M10 is here”. The past few weeks have allowed me to recognize further what a wonderful camera Leica has created. The handling and feel of the M10 is very much like that of the Leica M7. The cameras have nearly identical dimensions, though the M10 is a tad heavier. Like all digital M bodies, and unlike any film bodies, the M10 lacks a film advance lever. We could easily go back and forth about the pros and cons of such an accessory, but Leica has settled on a body design without the advance lever, though this decision has left a gap in the ergonomic handling ease of the M system. Leica finally acknowledged this by releasing their “M10 Thumb Support.” However, many of you know that Match Technical has been devising just such a device for nearly a decade, and they are at it again, releasing the EP-MX (“Ergonomic Profile – M10”) Thumbs Up Grip for the Leica M10.

Many of you may be wondering: Should I get a thumb grip? Let me try to answer by offering an analogy. For many years, I used the film advance lever as an effective thumb grip for my film M’s. Using the cocked lever to rest the thumb, prior to pressing the trigger, is ergonomically very “M” feeling. That feel is obviously lacking in digital M cameras, and Leica M bodies forgo the thumb rest in favor of a clean and uncluttered design. For some of you, there is no issue, and you will be entirely pleased with operating your M’s without such an accessory. For others, regularly holding the M without a thumb rest causes hand fatigue and makes the M experience ever so slightly deficient. Using a thumb grip permits the thumb to once again rest comfortably against the body, effectively bracing it. Some claim that this provides easier hand holding, a firmer grip, more security, and the ability to shoot at slower shutter speeds (due to less hand shake). Others will claim that using such a grip makes the digital M camera less appealing in appearance. Many designs will use the camera’s hot shoe, which then is no longer accessible, obviating the opportunity for using flash units. The only way to really know for yourself is to simply try out the thumb grip and see if it fits for you.

Okay, so you’ve decided to buy a Thumb grip. Next question: Which one? The “Thumb Grip” market has become increasingly crowded over the years. Leica’s jumped into the fray as the new kid on the block in this market space, manufacturing a nicely designed Thumb Grip. The Leica “Thumb Support” sits flush in the hot shoe and blends with the top of the M body, an aesthetically pleasant choice, as the grip blends into the camera’s lines. However, Leica’ thumb grip profile is not ergonomically curved to optimize the position of the thumb when the camera is gripped, favoring a more vertical design. This is where Match Technical’s EP-MX design excels!

I spoke with Tim Isaac, founder and lead designer for Match Technical, about his latest grip. I have known Tim for a decade, and I know him to be meticulous in considering his designs. He does not tolerate design choices that reduce the functionality of his grips, and over the past decade, he’s made subtle refinements to his design. For example, the “ergonomic profile”, essentially a slightly angled thumb rest, came about a couple of years into the manufacture of thumbs up grips to permit more comfortable thumb rest and grip in keeping with the natural contours of the hand. Later, a rubber backing was introduced to prevent damage to the camera body when the grip is mounted. Some designs have included a cold shoe (to permit use of accessory viewfinders), while more recent designs have done away with this option.

The Match Technical EP-MX is machined from a single block of solid brass. A rubber bumper on the back of the grip protects the camera’s body from scratches, dents, or scuffs. The latest addition is a locking hex screw on top of a slight hump that causes the grip to stick up slightly over the flat profile of the body. On first receiving the grip, I wondered about the elegancy and necessity of the grip, so I asked Tim Isaac. Tim reported prior Thumbs Up designs demanded hot shoe holsters to be smaller than the slot on the accessory shoe into which it is placed, and the slight variance in fit between holster and grip can cause a wiggle, that has “bugged me for years” (Tim’s a noted perfectionist). He notes, “To guarantee a fit on any Leica with any Thumbs Up, the tolerance (of fit between camera and grip) must never exceed specific limits. This in turn guarantees a wiggle”. Tim hates the wiggle, and he notes, “the EP-MX hump and its locking feature allow the dimensional difference between the camera and the Thumbs Up to be effectively eliminated.” Hence, “the wiggle is gone.” Essentially, the price for a perfect fit between grip and body is the hump that you see on the EP-MX. It’s the price that we pay for perfect function.

To take it one step further, Tim notes, “The surround of the zoom thumb wheel (on the M10) reduces to a zero dimension as it wraps around the end of the camera.

On the Thumbs Up EP-MX, there is a corresponding fillet that reduces to a zero dimension as the horizontal cantilever joins the mounting base. I really like these kinds of details and hope that they subtly convey to the photographer that this accessory that attaches to his or her camera, looks and feels to be a natural extension of the beautiful Leica.” As you can tell, Mr. Isaac puts an incredible amount of thought into the design of the grip to make it perfect for the M user. In my experience, the EP-MX grip does in fact feel more comfortable (with less wiggle) than Leica’s own design. The care and thought that goes into the craftsmanship of the EP-MX grip is evident each time I pick up the grip, and the ergonomic deficits of the M10 melt away.

As you can see from the photos, Match Technical takes great care in packaging their Thumbs Up grips, lending them the same “fondling value” as one gets when opening their M10 camera box for the first time. Included is a hex screw driver that is used to tighten the grip once it’s mounted in the hot shoe. There’s a clear attention to detail in the packaging and a nice personal touch, with Tim thanking you for buying his grip.

Holding my M10 with the Thumbs Up Grip feels like meeting an old friend again. It’s my M7 all over again. Now, instead of the film advance lever, I use the EP-MX to rest my thumb and secure a more confident grip.

 

To summarize, here are a few pros and cons of the Thumbs Up EP-MX designs

Pros
1) Ergonomically profiled thumb rest provides the most comfortable and secure grip on the M10
2) Locking mechanism guarantees no wiggle once grip is mounted
3) Colors and lines match well with the camera
4) Design more from 10 years of experience
5) Price: Approx $50 USD cheaper than the Leica offering

Cons
1) The Hump. I’m not a huge fan of the hump design. It’s not as aesthetically pleasing as the Leica grip, but is more secure and functional
2) Brassing. I have seen reports that the black grip brasses somewhat easily with heavy use. I have not seen this for the chrome version
3) Loss of hotshoe (and flash is not permitted with grip mounted)

I give the Match Technical EP-MX grip and ENTHUSIASTIC Thumbs Up. It’ll improve the handling of the M10 for the majority of its users, and it will do so more confidently that Leica’s own design. If you want the ultimate grip in terms of function and are comfortable with forgoing flash photography using your M, go for the EP-MX. Some of you will note that I have not spoken of the “Thumbie” grip, which binds by adhesive to the body and permits use of the hot shoe. I have not used this grip (and am not sure if an M10-optimized version is available), and thus I cannot yet comment. I just happen to think that the EP-MX is the best option. I think you will too.

You can buy the Thumbs Up EP-MX at PopFlash.com 

The Strap you see on the M10 is from Tie Her Up straps, and is the Leica M10 Edition – HERE

Feb 202017
 

Snow in California: Leica M10 & Phase One IQ3-100mp

By Darwin Nercesian

As a change of pace, a group of friends and I set out this weekend to take photos in the mountains of Angeles National Forest. Of course we remembered to bring warm clothing (but not the appropriate footwear) but we didn’t let that stop us from hiking out into the snow. For this outing, I packed my Phase One IQ3-100 megapixel digital back attached to a Cambo WRS-5000 technical camera sporting a Rodenstock 32mm large format lens. This setup is far less intimidating than one might think, especially with the addition of the electronic shutter on the IQ3-100. Of course, I did forget my LCC card and I still haven’t found a way to compress the images for the web in a way that will not induce some banding in the blue sky, but needless to say, it is very clean in the full resolution image. I also packed my new Leica M10 because, well, I never leave home without an M.

Phase One IQ3-100 megapixel, Rodenstock 32mm, Cambo WRS-5000

While I did have my tried and true 50mm Summilux Pre-ASPH and 35mm Summicron ASPH with me, Handevision generously sent me out one of their new IBERIT 75mm lenses to test out and I decided to limit myself to this lens for the day. The IBERIT lineup of lenses can essentially be thought of as an even more affordable alternative to the Leica Summarit line. They will be available in 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm, and 90mm, all with a maximum aperture of F/2.4.
I found myself pleasantly surprised by the build and the optics of the IBERIT 75mm as it is a lens that is scheduled to sell for under $600 in the US, which is about as accessible as it gets for the M mount.

Not one to shy away from shooting into a light source, even one as hot as the sun, I caught one of my fellow photo muchachos taking his own shot of the setting sun.

And finally , here is my own shot of the sun setting over the mountains.

Thanks for looking. My name is Darwin Nercesian. I am an Architectural, Commercial, and Street photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. You can see more of my work at: www.dna-image.com and on instagram: @dna_image and @dna_architectural

Jan 252017
 

A Leica M10 Review

by Momofuku Ando – See his website HERE – His Instagram is HERE

Through a recommendation, I was offered to have a crack at the leica m10 for several days before its official announcement. i probably spent more time ogling at the camera than making images with it. this is my personal account of the initial impressions of the camera. i am not sponsored by or obligated to leica to write this post. whiskey and insomnia were responsible.

the naming of the camera finally eliminated years of numerology confusion for me. i had the m7, m8, m9 and suddenly came the m240. i had to apply the logarithmic curve to predict how the germans might name the next camera, and the answer was m73494. thankfully, it is named m10.

Mesmerizing

Remember your first Leica? She was captivating and a sight to behold. She was like your first love. Then she got pregnant (m240) – still very lovely but chunky (with the video function). The Leica M10 is akin to the post-natal m240 – more elegant, simpler and slimmer. Yet she still retained that familiar charm and has matured beautifully.

The Leica M10 sheds 20 grams off her previous form, that is like 1 stone in human terms. She is thinner by around half a cm, that is akin to losing 3 sizes off the jeans. That said, all these enhancements might be superfluous for the leica collectors/connoisseurs vis-a-vis their heavy cognac leather bag loaded with chrome lenses.

What is important to me is that I felt the Leica M10 handled better than her digital ancestors.

Minimalistic

The Leica M10 is the zen garden of the camera world. The number of operation buttons halved from 6 to 3. The menu screens were simplified. The underused video function has been retired. The M inscription vanished. Even the file sizes remained small.

I almost had the urge to break out in meditative yoga poses when I am near this camera. It was that tranquil.

It is so simple to navigate and use that I don’t need to refer to the manual. It was also because I wasn’t given one.

Massive

The viewfinder is amazing. period. I felt like a flightless superman with good vision. I am cancelling my lasik appointment.
like my waistline, my choice of lenses are getting wider. so this higher magnification viewfinder might not work towards my favour in the long run.

Monochrome-able

I mainly make black and white images and I have the leica monochrom (mm). so i am curious how the new leica m10 might be used for that purpose. i cranked the machine to use dng+jpg and use the monochrome filter and voila, i have the mm’s spirit in this new body. The Leica M10 is capable of seeing and producing monochrome photos but I will be still keeping my mm for a while.

Magical (almost)

My mate once quipped about a camera he had “the iso is so good i don’t need to change light bulbs anymore”. The leica M10 can operate up to iso 50,000. Fifty freaking thousand. I have this theory that Leica should price their m’s relative to the iso ability. The m240 is around usd 6,400. Fortunately, the new leica m10 will be priced with sanity.

I reckon I can use iso 20,000 comfortably with this camera, that is a massive 3 stop gain over the iso 3200 I currently use with my m240. Now I can make creepy photos at night.
There are some ongoing debates on what is usable iso. 20,000 isn’t going to smooth (for that you have the freaky meitu app). I can live with the noise and color shift at iso 20,000. your mileage will differ.

The following image is one example of high iso. I have not converted it to black and white but I would imagine it being decent.

 

Misses

A couple of quirks I experienced with the pre-production unit – several of my dng files were corrupted and cannot be imported into Lightroom. On two occasions, I could not switch between live-view and non live-view (powering off solved the issue, just like conversations with some of my apparent bosses).

The dials are a little stiff too. I wished I wouldn’t need to pull up the iso dial to change the settings.

and in case you are wondering, in true m legacy, the camera hung.

I would love the new camera to have in-built gps too.

M-app

I was excited when I first got the loaner Leica M10, mainly because the marketing people I picked the camera from are generally cute and this – wifi connectivity between the camera and my iphone. Finally, stealth shooting with the leica m series using the iphone and transfer of images. i commented during my leica q review I did some time back:

Now not only I look creepy, I have the technology to match.

Here’s the bummer.

The connection between the camera and the ios app is painfully slow – 25 seconds for the camera to become wifi-able, another 10-15 seconds for my iphone to connect with the camera wirelessly, 5 seconds to go through a 3-tap sequence to get the app to start interacting with the camera. that is a 45 second cycle to set this up. I remember the leica q wireless setup to be a lot speedier and less clunky.

If the camera goes into sleep mode, it is the same cycle all over again. occasionally, the camera asked for the same password again. i wonder if it because my password was “wifi2slow”.

I need this for street (or voyeurism, they are the same), i’m not shooting flowers or gross collection of rare antique lenses/cameras (i am sure no leica users buy equipment for that purpose, right?).

45 seconds is the download speed for a movie these days. I hope this might be improved significantly with firmware upgrade.

The layout of the app is simple and well-laid out. this is my 2nd most favorite app this week- the first is using the meitu app to make freaky androgynic photos of people.

More images

The following images were edited from dng for exposure and down-sized for internet use. i chose leave the colors “as-is” for this post. a quick processing with vsco yields rather remarkable results.

For those who asked and were stuck in the eternal vortex of discussing m9 ccd versus m240 cmos, click here.

Sep 072012
 

Photokina 2012 – It may be the best ever! 

 

Photokina is just around the corner..the event in Cologne Germany that is a powerhouse of camera releases. Every camera manufacturer usually waits until Photokina to release their best and latest models and this year is no exception. With hot new stuff coming from just about EVERYONE I am particularly excited about the Leica news, Fuji news, Sony news and even Olympus. So what is there to look forward to?

New Sony Products..

We all know Sony is releasing new products at Photokina..with rumors of a FF NEX camera and NEX-6 floating around I wonder what they have in store? I have seen the NEX-6 on various websites so that one seems like a 100% for sure deal but I am still using my good old NEX-7 with fantastic results, even with the $199 Sigma 30 2.8 (which is a MUST buy for any NEX owner) the results are excellent. To say I am excited to see the new Sony stuff is an understatement. I believe it is Sony who pushed this whole mirrorless segment anyway with their original NEX-5, which was tiny but powerful. Sure we had the Leica X1 and Micro 4/3 but Sony took that APS-C sensor and packed into a fast and sleek body even though the lenses lacked. I am hoping for something revolutionary and some new lenses..let us see what happens..hopefully next week :)

New AMAZON Kindle Products..wow!

While this is not a Photokina story I found these new products to be a pretty damn nice. Yesterday I saw The new Kindle Products from Amazon and they look amazing. The new The Kindle Paperwhite appears to destroy the latest Nook with glow light at around $119. I am a huge fan of the Kindle for reading books as I find it much better than reading on a tablet like my iPad 3 or Kindle Fire. The new Kindle Fire appears to come in three sizes, even coming in with an iPad like version at $499 for 32GB and crazy cheap 4G access and after reading the sale/press releases I am starting to really want one (though I will stick to my iPad 3).  Amazon is on the right track with these new products and I preordered a Paperwhite Wi-Fi for myself with one of  the the new snazzy cases. Looks like they ship October 1st and I am looking forward to it. Seems they just gave the Google nexus a slap in the face with their new $199 Kindle Fire HD as well.

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Fuji, they are still rockin’ it!

As you saw here yesterday, Fuji has the new X-E1 on the way and I I pre-ordered one of these as well. The X-E1 looks to be THE perfect Fuji camera..finally! While I adore the X100, the X-Pro 1, for me, fell a little short even though I fell in love with the rendering and look of the 35 1.4 lens. But what does Fuji do for Photokina? They release a $700 less expensive camera called the X-E1 that has the same sensor, same build, better EVF, better video and smaller size. WOW. But what about all of those X-Pro 1 early adopters? Are they stuck with a $1699 camera that will sink down to $700 in resale? Well, no one knows but the X-Pro 1 is still the king of  the heap in the Fuji line up and to prove it Fuji is releasing a new firmware update that will bring the faster AF, faster write times and the snappy performance of the new X-E1 to the Pro 1, so fear not fellow Pro -1 owners! September 18th seems to be the day for the FW release. I may be renting an X-Pro 1 for the 1st ever Steve Huff Photo cruise next week with hopes of getting the new Firmware so I can see how it does in real world shooting. In any case, lots of cool stuff from Fuji. The new 14 2.8, new 18-55 zoom and new cameras. THIS 2012 Photokina will be the best ever IMO as Fuji is also releasing more at the event.

Speaking of Fuji, PopFlash.com has a bunch of cool combos for Fuji cameras that consist of the Thumbs Up grip for the X100, X10 and X-Pro 1 – they are selling them together with a soft release so check out some of what they have HERE.

Leica in the house!

But what about Leica? YES, Leica will announce (only my predictions here…not 100% facts) the much talked about and rumored M10, a new compact interchangeable lens camera (Leica’s answer to the Fuji X-E1 maybe)?, the D-Lux 6 and probably a new lens or two. I got my invite from Leica (see it above) to attend their Photokina event but sadly can not go as the cruise is happening that same week. I will be on the seas with fellow passionate photographers for an entire week as we cruise the east coast in search of fun and photos :) I was hoping to bring along the new Leica Monochrome I ordered many moons ago but my camera has not come in yet so that doesn’t look like it is going to happen. I may bring something new from Sony (if they leave me with something) and maybe the Fuji or maybe an M9. Not quite sure yet. In any case, keep an eye out next week for Leica’s announcements. There will surely be some drool worthy cameras and lenses to come out for many of us to start saving our pennies for and I will be doing my best to update the site while on the ship.

Olympus..where art though Olympus?

Looks like there will be a new PEN model announced at Photokina and from what I hear, they will  be coming in different colors. Not sure if this is a good move or not as it will sort of dumb it down I think. I liked the silver, white and black but what happens when we get green, pink, red and blue PEN cameras? They will start to look like toys just like the colored Nikon J1’s. BUT it could also appeal to a wider audience as well so what do I know? I am hearing good things about the new PEN cameras in regards to IQ and speed which doesn’t surprise me as the OM-D continues to be one of the hottest cameras selling today due to everything it does RIGHT.

Aug 292012
 

New Leica compact system coming to Photokina? My crystal ball says MAYBE…

So I dusted off my crystal ball last week and in between writing for and maintaining this website 40-50 hours a week and doing some Paranormal Investigating with my son 20 hours a week I figured I would find time to dust off the old ball to see what Photokina will bring us from Leica….

Now, this is just a crystal ball prediction like I have done many times in the past so take it with a grain of salt :) Maybe I should say “for entertainment value only”

In any case, as I gazed into the ball I saw a Leica rangefinder…it was matte black and I soon realized this was the Monochrom which should be delivered to the USA within 3 weeks or so. I also saw the X2 but it was fading into the background. The X2 has been lackluster in the sales dept, especially when compared to the X1 which was a huge success so maybe the was why it was fading.

Remember the R lens solution? Well I thought I saw a small solid Leica like body fly by the crystal ball through a haze of M and R lenses…then a German man was jumping for it saying ME ME ME!! with $3500 in USA cold hard cash in his hands… So odd…

Maybe Leica will have a new German-made body at Photokina that will accept R and M lenses via adapters or maybe it will be something like a mini M..or a new versatile all in one. Not sure. I thought I saw a huge letter “C” fly by as well, which I took as APS-C. This would make so much sense..the digital CL we have been asking for but Leica usually never gives us what we ask for.

That is all I saw so it will be exciting to see if Leica surprises us with this new camera.

As for an M10…I saw a sad face like there have been difficulties with it..maybe it is not ready but I do not see an M10 being available until MID 2013 and maybe THIS will be the “R” solution. Imagine a CMOS – LIVEVIEW M that can take R glass as well. Hmmmmm. The M10…I wouldn’t expect a working demo unit to be unveiled in September but maybe can announcement about it.

I also saw a lens…was pretty damn large too..wide angle. But who knows what that meant :)

DISCLAIMER: I did not read ANY of this from a rumor site (I do not visit them) and no insider or friend told me this information. I guess we will see what happens in September, just three weeks away! I will be on the Photo Cruise but will try to report when I can that week on whatever I can!

Mar 222012
 

What is to come on May 10th from Leica? I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you…

So speculation is running wild about the May 10th announcement coming from Leica. I was invited to the event in Berlin and really hope I can make it (depends on flight and travel costs) and plan on going but so far if you search the internet you will see many rumors of what is to come. I have been keeping quiet because, well, I already have all of the new Leica products and am under a strict order NOT to talk about them.

Yep, I already have in my possession the new and much talked about M Monochrome, the new X2, the new S3 and an unfinished M10 and I am like a kid at christmas!

Well….no, that’s not true. I just told a big fat lie. :) I figured that by naming this post the way I did would bring in hits from the search engines :)

In reality I have nothing and really can’t say what is to come. Who knows? Instead I will talk about what the internet rumors are saying and then give my thoughts and guesses. But damn, I couldn’t find my crystal ball so this is all blind…

Rumor #1 – A Black and White Monochrome M is the big announcement. Hmmm.

Well someone obviously leaked this out and now it has taken over like wildfire on the internet, unless it was a big made up rumor but I doubt it. The invite Leica sent out sort of had B&W hints all over it. Some are saying THIS is the big announcement. If so, then I think it is pretty damn cool because if Leica went with a B&W sensor then they could also have it perform amazingly well at high ISO. It would be like a classic M loaded with ALL kinds of B&W film. The DR would be better, noise would be better, high ISO could go higher and damn, I am sure it would look sexy as sexy can look. I can just imagine those crazy good B&W RAW files. My concern that is if this is what is coming…how much will Leica charge? It seems like it would cost less for them to produce but at the same tie they could charge MORE due to them being Leica and the fact that there is NOTHING like this out there, at all. I would love to have an M body dedicated to amazing quality B&W with rich output and without having to worry about noise or dynamic range. Want grain? Dial it in with ISO. Rumors are saying it will not have a back LCD but I feel that it would because you would still need to set up the camera as it is indeed digital. Guess we will see if this is even a reality on May 10th. My guess? $7500. Hope it is less though so us mere mortals can afford one. If indeed this is real.

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Rumor #2 – The M10 will be announced

I originally thought that May 10th meant M10. :) But now I am not so sure. I think Leica is still working on the “10” and will announce this one at Photokina later on. They still have some special edition M9P’s to sell. I do feel that when the M10 is announced that it will have many changes from the M9. But I really do not know, these are just my opinions. May 10th though WOULD be a perfect day to announce an M10. Maybe they will mention it, maybe they will show one. I really do not know. My guess though is that the M10 will be later.

 

Rumor #3 – The X2/Mirrorless IC camera

This is a big one. Some are saying the X2 will have interchangeable  lenses. Some are even saying it will be full frame! Me? I don’t think it will have either but then again, MAYBE Leica is feeling the heat from Sony, Olympus, Fuji…wait..NO, they can’t be..they are Leica! So with that said, I think the X2 will be announced but not sure I expect an IC camera out of it though that would have been a killer move. That would have meant a new line of lenses though and with Leica having such a hard time as it is with delivering their glass, not sos use they would take on an all new mount.

The X1 has supposedly been discontinued so the facts are there… it simply is time for an X2 because like I said, Fuji, Sony, Olympus…they have all made sales of the X1 slow down to a halt. Leica needs an X2 update, just hope it is a good one!

 

Rumor #4 – Again, a mirrorless solution and R solution

Many seem to think that Leica will be releasing some sort of mirrorless camera. I have no clue if this is the case but if they do, will it be a German-made masterpiece with all new lenses or will it be a Olympus OM-D in disguise that takes Micro 4/3 lenses? Knowing Leica…they wouldn’t want to make a 3rd premium German built camera system with all new lenses, as this would hurt it’s M sales and if the X2 is NOT an IC camera, then it would hurt its X2 sales. So where does that leave a mirrorless solution? I wouldn’t put it past them to redesign a Olympus or Panasonic body and go Micro 4/3. But maybe I am just crazy. This is why May 10th will be so exciting, because I love surprises!

But me? I feel that there is something to the B&W rumors, don’t feel an M10 is coming on May 10th and I also feel they NEED an X1 update, in an X2. Just my guesses! We shall see in May! BTW, if Leica is reading this then SEND ME whatever is new and I will review it THOROUGHLY and have it posted AFTER the announcement! Good plan huh? :)

Using the comments below, tell me what YOU hope to see on May 10th from Leica!

Mar 062012
 

Leica needs a grand slam camera announcement in 2012 – will they deliver?

It has now been just about 2 1/2 years since Leica had their big event to announce the full frame M9. FINALLY we all thought at the time! A full frame digital rangefinder by the masters of RF design, we will never ask for anything more we said. When it hit, those of us who were lucky enough to get a hold of one were immediately in love with the familiar design, and of course, the amazingly creamy sensor made by Kodak. I was so excited to get one of my own at the time, I remember it vividly. When I finally did I couldn’t stop shooting it and it never left my side when I left the house! There was an excitement in the air and in my bones when that M9 arrived and it was due to not only the camera itself being my dream machine but the excitement from everyone else who was waiting for this camera. It was Special. Leica actually created a grand slam with the M9/X1/S2 releases and turned their whole business and profit around. Pretty amazing.

Leica succeeded in making 2009 THEIR year and even today they have been enjoying a huge success with M camera sell outs, and lenses that they can not seem to make fast enough. The prices are sky-high but even in this economy (that many say is so bad) Leica continues to sell out $11,000 lenses and $8000 bodies. On the other hand, the little camera that could, the Leica X1, is not doing so well these days. Sales have slumped for the last few months ever since the Fuji X100 release and prices on the used market have dropped quite a bit. Leica will need not only something new in the M line but also the X line. Who knows, maybe they will shock us and release an all new line of camera :)

Then again, I am also worried about the $$ situation as they seem to raise prices any chance they get and it is starting to get to the point where I am being priced out of the cameras wether I like it or not, and I know many out there feel the same because I hear it all the time. I am not rich by any stretch of the imagination but I own a Leica M9P and a couple of lenses. Why? Well, mainly because I feel a connection to this brand we call Leica, and I also happen to think the output is still today 2nd to none. Yes, I really do. I have bonded with my M like many of my fellow M shooters who are reading this very article. It has given me the best photos and memories of my life so for me, the M will always be with me but if they release a new M at $10k or $11k, I am out.

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THE REALITY OF TODAY

This is 2012 and it is no longer the “year of the Leica”, 2009. Cameras have evolved so fast over the past three years that many feel that the Leica M9 is now “old tech”. Sure it has a horrible “worst of the worst” LCD and yes it has a painfully slow buffer, and yes it is noisy (but usable) at ISO 2500. BUT what do we get in return when we put up with all of that? We get amazing file quality when using good lenses and that quality on many occasions has rivaled medium format. Slap on a Leica 35mm or 50mm and be amazed at the detail in your images. But then again we have to take a look at costs because we are talking about spending $7000-$8000 on just a camera BODY and spending that kind of cash TODAY, as in RIGHT NOW is tough. Especially when we have all of these new cameras on the way.

Yes! IN 2012 this is getting a bit tricky because we have cameras like the Fuji X-Pro 1, and I have to say that the more I see of it, the more amazing it appears in regards to image quality. The lenses are sharp and the file quality appears to be equaling the M9 in many of the samples I have seen to date. The styling is like an RF, and it even has a modern-day hybrid EVF/VF and a much better LCD. The Fuji IS NOT an RF but you can surely use your Leica glass on it and take advantage of it having no AA filter. The Fuji has even better color than the M9 and at 1/4 the price of an M9, it will be serious competition to those who have not yet gone with a Leica due to cost, but wanted to. Those who bought an M9 and had focus issues or cracked sensors or have become disappointed with the luxury brand for one reason or another  will flock to the Fuji X-Pro 1 (or even the new OM-D which also look phenomenal) in droves. Others simply see the X-Pro 1 as a viable alternative to the M9..those who are not diehard rangefinder shooters.

Many have been saving for an M9 or M9-P and I have heard from quite a few that they will take that savings and invest in the Fuji X-Pro 1 instead. Superb IQ, great styling, great lenses, 1/4 the cost. It makes sense. Even cameras like the NEX-7 are capable of amazing output with Leica glass attached. So what does this mean for Leica in 2012?

IT MEANS THEY BETTER ANNOUNCE SOMETHING SPECIAL, AND DO IT SOON.

Leica has not yet made any new product announcements but I am hoping and guessing they will do so very soon. If not, they will be in some big trouble as I predict their M9 sales will eventually slow down to a halt while everyone enjoys the new stuff from Fuji, Sony, and Olympus. There is a genuine excitement in the air about these new generation photographic machines in the photography world. Again, keep in mind I am not talking about die-hard Leica guys switching to Fuji, because people like me LOVE their M and will always have one. I am referring to that group of new customers Leica has not yet attracted and those who even went with an M to find it frustrating. I feel if Leica does not announce something amazingly special that this will NOT be their year and they may even lose some sales.

Will they announce a new X or M soon? I do not know… but one thing I hope for is that there is still someone at Leica with a creative mind and that they are really looking at what we want in a new model. I am not hoping for massive mega pixels or a new design. I am hoping for a more “mature” digital M. One that can focus accurately, one that has an LCD  that can let you know if you nailed focus when you look back at your image and one that can possibly have less noise at higher ISO. When you think about it..what CAN Leica do to create a HOME RUN camera?

BTW, I will have a review of the new Pentax K01 by the end of the weekend and the Fuji X-Pro 1 should be arriving to me SOON, so stay tuned! Like I said, this is the calm before the storm :)

Give me YOUR thoughts on what you are hoping to see from Leica. Leave your comments below!

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