Jul 022013
 

Quick Compare: Leica M9 & 50 Sonnar vs Leica M7 and 50 Lux by John Tuckey

Hi Steve, given the recent interest in the Sonnar after your new review, I thought folks might be interested in a comparison I have from a recent shoot.

The shoot was simply to get some nice vintage styled images with a bit of 50’s glamour to use in my portfolio on 500px (where I still have illusions about selling enough downloads to buy a nocti, hey we can all dream!) and in a book I’m putting together. As usual I used the M9 as my main camera, but as we had some time I decided to rattle off a few with my M7 as well. So here you get an interesting comparison between the M9 + Sonnar 50, and the M7 + Lux 50. Lens vs Lens, and Film vs Digital. Not a scientific comparison obviously, but an interesting one being as its rare to get the same subject with both cameras at the ready.

The vast majority of the time I shoot an M9 – It used to be practically welded to the Lux 50 ASPH, but find myself using the Sonnar more and more. Yes, the focus shift can be an issue if you’re not chimping, but its a lens to love for its imperfections I think. These first two images are the M9, Sonnar at 1.5. The focus shift got me a little, but the end result was still compelling.

JRT-huff-M9-1 JRT-huff-M9-2

Now here’s two with the M7 and the Lux 50, I was using Ilford Delta 100, and scanned the negs in on a friends Epson Perfection 750.
JRT-huff-M7-7028 JRT-huff-M7-7029
Which do you prefer? I have to admit I much prefer the M7 shots. I can see me pushing a few more rolls through it on my next shoots :)
All the best

http://www.facebook.com/jrtvintage

Apr 162013
 

Using a simple prop in your photos can make it fun and interesting

“The Glasses” – A start of a new portrait series

Since I had a couple of days free this past weekend I decided to have some fun and goof around at home by taking some silly portraits using an old pair of vintage eyeglasses I found at a local goodwill for $1.  I bought the glasses with the purpose of using them for goofy portraits. When I saw the glasses and had my son’s friend put them on he looked quite odd..like a lunatic. It seemed to change his personality which I found interesting. I snapped his pic and of course we all laughed. Yep, a simple “prop” could not only make a fun photo but maybe, possibly a new series of photos that can give you something creative to think about and create. It sparked a silly idea in my head and gave me something fun to try.

I told my son to put them on and I saw the same thing so I bought them and brought them home. I mean, where else can you get fun like this for $1? Later that night I snapped a photo of my son wearing them while outside at 10PM. I used the light by the door to illuminate his face and set the camera to ISO 1600. With those huge frames he kind of resembles a young Bill Gates, or a geeky inventor.

I then had my buddy put them on and he took a knife and made a menacing face..almost Serial Killer like, so I said “you look like a serial killer”! Then Katie, my soon to be stepdaughter put them on and she became the “pyromaniac”.

After these three shots I decided to keep going with these glasses for the next year and when I meet someone or find someone willing I am going to tell them to put them on for a portrait while they tell me what they feel the glasses make them look and feel like. Should be fun :)

Could an old pair of glasses bring out a personality we never knew existed? Probably not, but possibly. Either way it should be interesting and I look forward to seeing what I can get over the next year :) The images below were shot with the Leica Monochrom but I am not limiting myself to using that camera. Future images may be taken with the M, Sony RX1 or even a Fuji or Olympus but I will keep them all B&W.

If you ever get bored and have nothing to shoot try using a simple prop and see what you can drum up!

For those who are wondering, the 1st two shots were with the 50 Lux ASPH and the 3rd was with the Zeiss Sonnar 1.5 at 1.5 and you can see the differences for sure, at least I can. I am loving both lenses but that Sonnar…well..it is rockin’.

The Inventor

L1003075-3

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The Serial Killer

mikeknife3

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The Pyromaniac

katieflame1

Dec 282010
 

FROM STEVE: Another superb guest article! Thanks to all who have been submitting these articles. I think it is amazing that we can all learn from each other and also, it has given me a breather and time to get refreshed and reloaded! I have some amazing surprises coming up soon…something AMAZINGLY special that you all will want to get involved in. Also..yes, my Pentax K5 review is coming SOON! Promise!

Enjoy this article/review of this fantastic lens for your M mount camera and thank you Michael for submitting it!

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The Leica M9 with Zeiss ZM 85mm Sonnar Lens Review by Michael Letchford

See his website HERE.

Having recently made the move from Nikon DSLRs to the Leica M9 for most of my general candid photography, I needed a longer throw lens for those can’t quite get close enoughí shots. Like a good chap, instead of rushing out and buying on impulse, I did my homework.

I read whatever I could find on the usual forums and websites, but was still undecided between 75mm and 90mm Leica lenses. Then, my excellent local Leica dealer Robert White’s Stuart Culley, while apologising for poor availability of Leica 90mm lenses, suggested a Zeiss f/2.0 85mm Sonnar as another option; particularly good, he thought, for portraits and full length people shots. That remark resonated because of some first class images I had seen right at the end of Steve’s February 10th article on the Leica 75mm Summicron, shot on the Zeiss, as a comparison to the Leica.

Steve and other writers have been impressed with the Zeiss and so, when I needed to make a final decision for a forthcoming trip, I decided on the Zeiss hoping that it would be the right choice. When it finally arrived, I made some quick test shots to get to know it and was quietly impressed with the way it draws, its colour and just the overall quality of the imagery. Then I took it with me to Venice for a couple of days and these are my first impressions of the combination. First, the test shots.

Yes, I know – is this a boring shot or what? Well, this was the first image from the lens and I kept it in because of the superb, subtle tones in the car’s hood and bright metalwork. This colour is difficult to capture, but the full size non-jpeg version, processed, is stunning. It’s a simple, nondescript image but it signposts the lens’s capabilities. I was encouraged.

But, oh dear. When I took some contra-jour images to see how it would cope with flare, I was somewhat surprised by the colour fringing on the burnt out highlights in some of the test images. Here you can see, on the left above, a 100 percent centre crop from an image taken at f/2.8 versus that on the right at f5.6. You can see substantial colour fringing around very high contrast edges until the lens is stopped down. Hmmm.

As you can see above, this is really significant when you inadvertently overexpose the image, as I did above, while experimenting with the bracketing of exposures. Ooops. Well, after this shoot I was very concerned that I might have a problem lens, so I revisited the articles I’d previously read to see if others had the same issue. Yup, in his 90mm RF Lenses test on the M8, Sean Reid noted the same issue on his pre-production sample, finding more Chromatic Aberration than expected at apertures greater than f4. Also, in his test on the ZF version of the same design his test shots show similar aberration levels on images from wide open to f4.

Hmmm again. However, rereading Sean’s closing remarks in his later comparative test of 90mm Leica. Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses, where he also re-tests a production Sonnar, he concludes;…” ‘it’s really impossible to ignore the exceptional performance of the Zeiss 85/2.0 Sonnar. This is a first rate optic…. (it) may, in terms of technical performance, be the best telephoto lens I have yet tested.”. So, I was comforted enough to try again, and with renewed enthusiasm aided by a gorgeous sunny day, I set off into the village to get the shots below.

Here you can see what can be achieved with the lens when the exposure is spot on. This is an old, very photogenic cottage in my village. The detail in the building and its roof makes it very useful as a test subject – particularly in bright sunlight together with some deeper shadows under the nearby trees. I just liked the way the Sonnar draws it – and those lovely colours. The image was shot in RAW and minimally converted in ACR. No contrast adjustments or sharpening were done.

Here are some 100 percent crops from around the centre and edges of the same image – again, all unsharpened and unprocessed except the bare minimum of conversion in ACR. Although this is reputed to be a high contrast lens, all these details are beautifully drawn and they stand out without the need for adding excessive contrast in post processing. The chimney detail crop reveals how beautifully the lens renders the subtle tones in the eathernware pots – great colours again – and if you’re concerned about how it captures detail at the edges, check out the fine wire mesh at the top of the right hand chimney pot.

Walking a bit further down the lane, I shot the image below. It’s shows an example of a dying craft called ‘Pargetting’. This is done by lime plastering a section of wall, or as here a decorative panel, and then drawing into the wet plaster to illustrate a rural scene. It’s a technique that was used on many village and civic buildings from the Late Tudor period (1500s to 1600s) right up to the early 1920s. Here you can see local farm workers felling and trimming a tree. Anyway, the image helps to show how the lens captures the textures without having to emphasize them with contrast adjustments.

There is also no trace of the aberrations I detected earlier. The high contrast edges around the windows in the shot below show that all is well when you get the exposure right.

Here is a 100 percent crop detail from the upper left of the image. No contrast adjustments or sharpening were added. Great colours in the roof tiles.

Below is a 100 percent crop detail straight from the RAW file from the centre of the image. No contrast adjustments or sharpening were added. Great rendition of the flint wall details too, and again, no trace of chromatic aberrations on the high contrast edges.

So, with that modest, but successful test behind me, I was ready for the real trip – an all too brief, two day vacation in Venice!

This image (below) was my first shot from the balcony of our hotel. It’s only about a third of the frame, from the centre – 85mm focal length doesn’t really isolate everything at this distance. It was shot at f4.0 at 1/1000th sec at ISO 160 – handheld. I was just trying to get used to the framing at this sort of distance, and framing your shot is a bit of a challenge with this lens. If composition is critical, to use as much of the frame as possible, then you’re going to have to practice quite a bit before you get what you were hoping for first time. Even if you dial in an appropriate lens code, you still get the 90mm framelines and they are different enough from the real view that critical composition is quite tricky. I need to practice more, obviously.

If you look closely, you can still see some chromatic aberration on the left shoulder of the gondolier and you can just detect the purple fringing on the near horizontal surface of his shirt, but it’s not too bad.

Look at the detail though – even at this modest sized picture you can still see the potential of this lens – finely drawn lines, nice colour and wonderfully subtle tonal gradations. Very nice, and the way it picks up the variety of tones and the translucency of the water, under the gondola and by the oar in the bottom left corner, is also excellent. Again, minimal processing and no sharpening.

Lots of people have commented on this lens being an ideal portrait lens, including Zeiss themselves. I think I’m right in remembering that they say that, because of deliberately uncorrected spherical aberrations inherent in their design, the lens gives beautiful renderings of slightly soft portraits and so lends itself directly to that kind of work. Well, actually, I was hoping that it might be capable of a greater range of subject matter than that. I think these shots suggest that’s very possible. Well then, how about some group shots?

This one is also only half the frame, from the left edge to the centre, so the standing gondolier is imaged on the extreme edge of the lens coverage – beautiful. The lower gondola is at the extreme bottom of the frame – check out the detail in the girl’s hair and the beautiful skin tones in her arms. The red haired chap in the bottom right hand corner has a printed T shirt on that is nicely rendered too. The gondola decoration, bottom left, and the water droplets are finely captured as well.

Unexpectedly, I really like this shot because of the ‘X’ composition of the people, the ‘chaos’ of detail and its overall sense of humour. Wherever you start looking at the picture, your eye is constantly drawn back in by the many lines of interest in the image. They really look like they were having such great fun! Shot at f/8.0 at 1/350th at ISO 160, handheld.

While I was busy concentrating on the shot above, I could hear someone below me, out of frame, singing the ‘Just One Cornetto’ Walls advertising campaign song to the tune of ‘O Solo Mio’. When I glanced down from the balcony there was this crazy guy singing his head off, in mock Italian, with his arms flung wildly apart at the crescendo of the song. A quick refocus and, pop, I got him. Of course my composition was off, so this crop is from one corner of the frame but, I like it. Not exactly posed, but he got my attention! I like the way all the heads lined up and the way the others are trying to ignore the noisy one; the guy in the grey T shirt is, I think, wishing he were somewhere else. Shot at f/5.6, 1/350th at ISO 160.

Next up was a walk around the Fish and Vegetable Market and here are a couple of shots using the lens at close up range, handheld, in very poor artificial light. Here are some red and green chillies shot at f/11.0, 1/45th at ISO 160. I made no contrast adjustments, nor did I add any sharpening.

This shot, is disgusting. These are some kind of eel, no idea which, but skinned the way they are and such an awkward and subtle colour to capture in the crazy lighting, I think it’s a creditable result from the lens. Again shot at close quarters at f/4.0, 1/45th at ISO 160. No sharpening or contrast adjustments – straight off the camera with minimum work in ACR.

Having been exhausted by trudging around a crowded Venice all day, I thought to catch some culture. So my wife and I took in a Vivaldi chamber music concert at a local Chapel that evening. Naturally, I made myself a bit of a nuisance in the interval by periodically popping up and down out of my seat, like a Jack-in-a-Box, to try a get a shot of the artists before they began the second part of the evening. As they were retuning their instruments, I managed this shot at f/2.0, 1/60th at ISO 1250 – handheld. Not a bad result at ISO 1250! The keen eyed among you will notice the aberrations again at the edge of the music’s maxed out highlight in the centre of the image. Ah well. Check out the lovely colours in the marble in the background upper left and the rendering of the Cellos on the right.

The following day, I tried again, and while my wife was trying out her new LX5, I experimented with some extreme backlit shots. This is one of my favourites. I can tell you that the upper 25% of this scene was completely washed out in the camera’s default jpeg. I kept it in, with the minimum of work in ACR to recover the highlights, to show you just what this lens is capable of in such conditions. The shot has its own grace and atmosphere, capturing the very spirit of the Venitian moment. Once again, check out the details in the distance and the way the scene is drawn – very, very nice stuff. Taken at f/5.6, 1/500th at ISO 160; no sharpening etc.

Just to make the point a little more obviously, here are some 100 percent crops from the same image – straight from the camera.

A little further along, I came across one of those surprise juxtapositions which catches your eye and you then spend the next ten minutes working out how to lay on the ground to get just the right angle to compose everything into the best geometric relationship while passers by step nervously over your prone body; hence this shot. I like the way the chimneys are out of focus but recognisable and the overhanging lamp is tack sharp in contrast. Image shot at f/5.6, 1/1000th at ISO 160 – handheld, on my belly in the dirt! Fabulous blue sky gradations.

As we returned to the hotel, looking across the Grand Canal, I noticed a beautiful, almost completely grey building facade with wonderful detailing caught in acute lighting, greatly emphasizing the texture of its stonework. Hence this shot. Taken at f/5.6, 1/3000th at ISO 160 (loads of light), handheld, with no sharpening or contrast adjustments, its shows what this lens can do right across the frame – it’s even caught a flying gull mid-flight on the upward wing beat – perfectly! If you can’t see it in the main image take a look at the 100 percent crops below. All straight from the camera.

And now for the humorous moment! This is a hilarious example of exasperated Italian temperament. The gate sign, so my wife tells me, which we just happened to walk past, says – ENOUGH! Stop with the Dog Shit! We are Furious! I’m not sure what the Arabic says below it, but I can guess. Couldn’t resist the image, and you can see how the lens has made a first class job of rendering it at close quarters. Taken at f/5.6, 1/180th at ISO 160 – handheld. This shot supports Erwin Puts’ conclusion that the Sonnar excels at close distances.

And here is a 100 percent crop from the centre of the image, again, straight from the camera.

Finally, a contra-jour shot of four gondoliers edging down a narrow canal towards the light. Since most of my work is usually monochrome, I thought I ought to just put one in among this unfamiliar orgy of colour. I just love the way this image is drawn – simple as that. Maybe it’s just me, but those subtle tones translate through to monochrome exceptionally well.

CONCLUSIONS

I think, without a shadow of doubt, that this lens is a genuine winner. Although my work is almost exclusively monochrome these days, this lens has a habit of reminding you that colour has it’s own intrinsic photographic value and it can seduce the eye with its own subtle rendering of scenes where colour is a major pictorial element of the overall image. It has a ‘personality’ – softer rendering when completely wide open, but rapidly rendering pin sharp, contrasty images as you stop down past F/2.8 and is wonderful at F/5.6. Couple this with beautifully subtle colour when it’s appropriate and it’s ability to record very fine details and I don’t think you could be disappointed with this lens.

Of course, it’s not a budget lens alternative to a comparable Leica lens and so it has to stand as an equal performer but with a different ‘character’. I think it achieves that with plenty to spare.

Incidentally, you’ll of course have noticed that I deliberately didn’t shoot any portraits. Ha! I hear you say – it’s a portrait lens. Well, that’s because I’m now working on the next step, which is how to use the lens as creatively as I can. Having satisfied myself that the Sonnar is a keeper, my challenge now is to see what can be achieved creatively – and I shall begin with a portrait or two. Hmmm.

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Mar 102010
 

Happy Wednesday! I was out ALL DAY yesterday with the wife doing some shopping and it turned into a much longer trip than I had planned for. So, this update that was meant for yesterday, is here today :)

I get quite a bit of gear coming through my doors these days. Cameras, lenses, binoculars, (reviews on those soon) and even software. I am only one man and sometimes it is tough to get to everything when I only have these items for a short time. Before I will write a full review of a product I have to use it extensively. If I can not get out there with it and shoot then I do not feel I should write a review for that item. Because of that I sometimes have to set some cameras or lenses aside and pass on writing a review for them.

A couple of weeks ago I realized I had some images on my hard drive from some of these lenses and cameras that never ended up being fully reviewed. So in this post I will go over three of those products that ended up being “missing in action” from my reviews! Basically, just short blurbs with some image samples. Enjoy!

The Zeiss 28 F2.8 Biogon Lens

Zeiss 28 ZM Biogon – I shot this lens on the M9 for a while and never really enjoyed it that much on the Leica M9. One problem I was always having was with exposure. This lens seemed to underexpose quite a bit on my M9. Sure I could compensate for that but my overall feeling is that if you want the best quality from your M9 with wider angles, try to stick with Leica Coded lenses. The Zeiss 28 2.8 was not a bad lens, quite the opposite. Besides some underexposure issues it seemed like a great lens just like the rest of the ZM line. It’s just not one of the “superstars” like the 25, 35C, and 85.

I did test the wider Zeiss ZM 25 2.8 and LOVED that lens. It was sharp, had great color, that Zeiss 3D pop and it was nice and wide. The 28 ZM, while a nice lens just did not do it for me like the 25 did. If a lens doesn’t do it for me then I really do not enjoy shooting with it so I never did get enough “real world” time with it as I only had it for a short time and I had it at the same time as four other ZM lenses and I had to send them all back before I could really shoot with the 28.

Again, this is not a bad lens, but just not one I would buy for myself FOR THE M9. On the M8 I hear it is beautiful.

Me, I would rather buy the superb Zeiss 25 ZM or the 35 C-Biogon F2.8 but here are a few more shots from this lens on the Leica M9 during my time with it. Again, I did not really have enough shooting time with it to properly evaluate it so what I say here are more like my “first impressions” of the lens.

The Canon 7D DSLR

CANON 7D – I had this camera for 30 days and could never really grow to like it that much due to the crappy kit lens that was packed with it. I had periods where I really enjoyed it (usually with the cheap-o 50 1.8) and then periods where I hated it (kit zoom).

The camera was sent to me as a kit with the 28-135 lens which is a substandard lens and not a good choice for Canon to be packing with this camera. They really should pack it with the 24-105L so the camera could show its true quality.

The camera’s ergonomics were terrific and much improved over the 5DMKII IMO. It felt more solid in the hand.

So in reality my issue was with the lens and NOT the camera. The camera itself seemed EXCELLENT and it was begging me to throw on a nice 24 or 50L on it but during my time with it I was unable to get a hold of those lenses. I really hoped to give this camera a thorough workout but between the nasty weather, the not so good kit zoom, and the fact that I had quite a few other cameras at the same time to test, well, the 7D did not get the attention it deserved.

I would love to give this one another shot with an nice L prime. The 7D and a 24L would be sweet. Also, a buddy of mine owns this camera and he is a HUGE Leica guy but these days he loves shooting his 7D. It has everything going for it. Speed, quality, build, HD movies in 1080P, 24 FPS…yep, the 7D is a great camera but PLEASE, if you buy one do not buy it with the Kit Zoom. :) You can find the body only at B&H Photo HERE.

I am looking to buy a DSLR soon (for telephoto and macro) as a companion to my M9 and the 7D is on my short list (so is the 5DII and D700). If this camera was full frame I would be ALL OVER IT. This is actually the first Canon body that I like in regards to feel/ergonomics and it is smaller than the somewhat bulky 5D/5DII.

Here are some images with the 7D while I had it. I did have the Canon 50 1.8 as well, but again, I really wanted some L glass to try out.

The Zeiss 85 f/2 Sonnar Lens


Zeiss 85 ZM f/2 Sonnar – This lens is one of the two Zeiss ZM lenses made in Germany and it’s a GORGEOUS hunk of glass. In fact, when it arrived I was WOWED with it’s beautiful contrast, color, and speed. The day it arrived I snapped a couple of sample shots of my son and was wowed with the way it captured him in the very low light. Very 3D and lots of “POP” I liked this lens better for portraits than the Leica 75 Summicron I tested a few weeks back. BUT, I did prefer the summicron for everything else.

This was another lens that I just did not get to go out and shoot that much. I had a very hectic February and with so many other cameras and lenses to shoot I was swamped. I can say with 100% certainty that the Zeiss 85 Sonnar is probably the nicest portrait lens I have ever shot with. It is gorgeous and I guess it should be! This one will set you back about $3400. I shot a series of portraits with it that I can not show here but they were lovely. This is a VERY warm lens that will give you a very rich image and its focus ring is so silky and smooth. The lens is kind of fat and short but it’s not really very heavy.

The 85 Sonnar F2 is sharp even when wide open and has GORGEOUS color if the lighting is right. I can easily recommend this lens if you are interested in using your M8/M9 for portraits. Here are some samples from this fantastic lens during my time with it:

So there you go. I just wanted to write something here because it was either that or write nothing at all. I figured it would be nice to mention these since I did have them here for a while. While I did not write up a full review, all three of these were great. The Canon 7D takes the prize here though. It is a wonderful DSLR and a step in the right direction for canon with its robustness, design and quality. I hear the Canon 100 Macro is amazing with this camera!

I hope you have enjoyed this little mini post. I am still working on the Canon G11 and Pentax K7 reviews so these should be up soon. The Pentax is another great little DSLR but I am hoping to get some better lenses to try with it before I finish up shooting with it. The G11 is a nice little compact but does not beat out the Leica D-Lux 4 or Panasonic LX3 for IQ IMO. To me, those two are still king of the hill for small sensor compacts!

Jan 202010
 

A new lens just arrived via Fed Ex for review and it is a beauty. The Zeiss ZM 85 Sonnar F2 (see this lens at Amazon) is absolutely gorgeous. One of two ZM lenses made in Germany, this lens may just be the sweetest portrait lens I have ever laid my hands on for 35mm photography. I will be shooting it for the next 30 days and a review will follow. For now, I will leave you with the first two images I shot with it just minutes ago. Opened the box, attached the lens, and headed for my sons room. No light outside due to rain and the grey dreary weather but he had a 40 watt table lamp on his desk. I snapped off a few shots at F2, ISO 1250 and was delighted with the quick results. I also have a 75 Summicron here so it may get interesting 8-O

Can’t wait to shoot this lens more! The full review of this lens will be up sometime in February!

Leica M9 – ISO 1250 – Zeiss ZM 85 Sonnar F2 at F2 – B&W w/Silver Efex Pro

Leica M9 – ISO 1250 – Zeiss ZM 85 Sonnar at F2CLICK HERE FOR FULL SIZE OOC FILE


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