Sep 162014
 

My top 3 Lusted after Leica items from Photokina 2014

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

My #1 Lusted after Item announced for Leica?

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

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

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

 

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My #2 most Lusted after item announced FROM Leica?

The new X Typ 113 with 23 1.7 Summilux

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

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

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

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

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

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My #3 most lusted after item announced from Leica?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can order the new D-Lux HERE. 

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LEICA DEALERS I RECOMMEND:

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

PopFlash.com

The Pro Shop

B&H Photo

Feb 132014
 

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The Leica 90 Summarit f/2.5 M Lens Review

By Steve Huff

Welcome to yet another Leica M lens review! It has been a while since I have posted a Leica lens review mainly because I have already reviewed nearly all of them over the past few years. But!!! There are a couple that I have not reviewed and one of them is this 90mm Summarit that I just received from Ken Hansen (Thanks Ken) Yep, the “lower end range” of the Leica line! The 90 Summarit may be lower in price when compared to the mega buck 90 f/2 Summicron but I’ll be damned if I do not like it BETTER than that megabuck 90 cron on the 240, and that is no lie or exaggeration!

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I guess that comes as no surprise as I preferred the old f/2.8 90 Elmarit to the 90 Summicron as well, mainly due to size and weight and of course, COST.

One from the 90 at 2.5, converted to B&W on the M 240

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Always, always click on the images to see the better and larger and sharper versions that are not down sampled like what you see embedded below!

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Many of you have seen my review of that older 90 Elmarit 2.8 lens and 4+ years ago when I wrote that review it was indeed my favorite 90 for the Leica M system. It all came down to size, performance and the fact that I had zero focus issues with that lens which is always nice when it comes to Leica.

I’ll just go ahead and spoil it now but I like the 90 Summarit just as much as the Elmarit and now that I have been shooting with it for a while I realized how much I enjoy this focal length on the Leica M 240. It is a joy to shoot with, a joy to focus and the results coming from this lens with the M 240 ROCK & ROLL non stop all day long. Results are rich, sharp and have nice sharpness and texture. Colors can pop and Bokeh is quite nice.

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In the past, with the M9 and M8 I was not a huge fan of the 90mm focal length because it seemed that no matter what 90mm lens I picked up there was a slight to massive focus problem (Until that old Elmarit). With the M 240 this 90 Summarit is extremely easy to focus and spot on when using the rangefinder, and what a relief that is. There is nothing I hate more than a mis-focusing Leica M camera and on a few occasions it has frustrated me so much that I almost gave up on the M all together. But since the new 240 I have not had any issues with focus (except when I dropped my 1st M, almost off of a cliff during the last Palouse workshop) and it has been smooth sailing ever since its release.

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These days I enjoy the M with a Voigtlander 15, Voigtlander 35, Leica 50 and this Leica 90. I am close to pulling the trigger on the 21 Super Elmar to finish it off and maybe in the next year I will save up for a classic Noctilux F/1. Maybe. But one thing keeps nagging at my brain and that is the fact that these lower cost Summarit lenses are just OH SO GOOD on the M 240. It really is all one needs. A 35 Summarit with a 90 Summarit would be a superb combo and add in a 50 Lux for those times you want that Lux look and you would be all set. A nice mix.

Click the image to see a larger 1800 pixel wide version. Plenty of sharpness with fantastic color pop.

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The size and performance of the Summarit line is perfect and they are just as good in the IQ department, if not better, than their more expensive brothers and sisters (Summicron and Summilux). Yes, just as good in the sharpness, detail and color. They will offer a different “look” in the Bokeh and rendering but this does not make them lesser than the more expensive lenses. What it comes down to is SPEED, and SPEED costs big fat money in Leica land.

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Yes Sir! The Summarit Line is SUPERB but seems to get the least attention…

This is a true statement. I have used all four of the more affordable “Summarit” lenses including the 35 f/2.5, the 50 f/2.5, 75 2.5 and now the 90 f/2.5. All three lenses share the same semi-fast aperture speed, the same build quality and the same price range. They all come with a protective carrying bag instead of a leather case but all are Leica in build, feel and use as well as the most important..IMAGE QUALITY. But for some reason many Leica fanatics disregard these lenses because they feel that if they are less expensive they must be compromised in some way. This is not really true.

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The only compromises that come with the Summarit line is that the aperture is not f/2 or f/1.4, it is f/2.5. So it is all about speed. The focus rings are quite nice and I prefer them to some of the more expensive models. Focus distance is also a tad longer at 0.8 meters instead of 0.7 for the 35, 50 and 0.9 for the 75. The 90 has a 1m minimum focus distance.

All in all, the entire summarit line is quite amazing because they give us a mix of classic and modern rendering. Actually, the 35 Summarit has some of the best Bokeh to be found in a Leica lens and is also smaller than the cron or lux!

Just take a look at the image below of a bird I too a very quick shot with using the 90mm at f/2.5 on the M 240. This is a full size file so RIGHT CLICK it to open in a new window to see it in its full size form.

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If you viewed the entire full size image above in a separate window (right-click the image, then open in a new tab or window) you will see that the Summarit 90 is sharp even when used wide open at f/2.5. The Bokeh melts into a creamy classical blur that resembles a painting with rich color and nice medium to high contrast. In fact, this lens makes my M 240 render somewhat like an M9 but with extended Dynamic Range and better color, and yes, I 100% feel that the M 240 has MUCH better color performance than the M9. Perfect? No, but no digital camera is. NONE. The M 240 offers better color, better dynamic range, better noise performance, better battery life, better LCD, nicer feeling and sounding shutter, better RF experience with the light up frame lines, live view if wanted and so far, no focus issues. After one year with the M240 I still prefer it in every way to the M9. Every way, IQ included.

Like to keep your distance? The 90mm focal length will help you do just that :) 

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So to be clear, the Summarit line of lenses is 100% Leica all the way giving Leica results. The funny thing is that I have shot with them all and NONE of these Summarit line of lenses have ever given me any focus issues (besides an early 75 Summarit that had a loose element inside). The 35, 50, 75 and 90 always focused spot on. I can not say the same for the 90 Summicron..at all. Not only is it large, heavy and very expensive..two of the three that I have had in my possession were a bit off in the focus. That is why I gave up on the 90 cron quite a while ago. Don’t get me wrong, the 90 Summicron is very special and magical when it is “on” but when something is special most of the time and frustrating some of the time I tend to drop it after some time. After four 90 Summicrons over the past 5 years I decided to stick with a slower 90 for my Leica, if I have any 90mm at all.

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One thing to note…Many who own the 90 Summicron and have focus issues feel like it is them who is making the focus errors. I have spoken with quite a few 90 Cron owners who were having issues and two of them I met in person during a meet up. I tested out the lenses on their camera and mine and I was able to verify exactly what I told them it was, which was a mis-focusing lens that needed an adjustment.

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When any Leica lens is adjusted and focusing properly it is EASY to nail focus. This goes for the Noctilux 0.95, 90 Summicron, 50 Summilux, etc. Focusing a 50 0.95 at 0.95 is just as easy as focusing a 28 Elmarit at 2.8. When that focus patch lines up you are in focus. If your image shows you otherwise something is out of whack.

The 90 Summarit is never frustrating. It just seems to deliver the goods no matter what I decide to aim my M at and not one shot was out of focus during this review period.

Click the image below to see my dog in all her sharp glory :) The 90 at f/2.5..no problem-o!

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Compared to the classic and legendary 90 Elmarit f/2.8

As already mentioned, back in 2010 I reviewed the now discontinued Leica 90 2.8 Elmarit. I LOVED and still do LOVE that lens. I no longer own it but do remember when I reviewed it that I enjoyed it immensely. That lens along with the M9 created eye-popping quality and sharpness. I am not sure why Leica discontinued the lens but they did, and its replacement is this lens here, the Summarit. They did downgrade the hood as the 90 Elmarit 2.8 had a built-in slide out hood where the Summarit has a screw in hood. (sold separately) I much prefer the slide out hood but you can’t always get what you want. Some prefer a screw in hood. Leica wanted to create the Summarit line of lenses as sort of a classic styled lens. They give a classic metal lens cap with the Leica logo and hoods are screw in.

Whatever the reason, I remember when I used this 90 Summarit on the M9 I found it to be a little more clinical than the Elmarit. When shooting the Elmarit the results seemed organic and very rich. When shooting the Summarit back then on the M9 it seems al title “colder” and not as rich or warm.

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Now with the M 240 being the hot M I decided to give the Summarit another shot and I am glad I did as it gives me much of what I enjoyed with the Elmarit on the M9 – contrast, pop, color depth and sharpness. There is a very evident color difference with the new M 240 over the M9 (warmth vs cool) , and I prefer the M 240 100%. I feel it is much more natural though there may indeed be a pinkish hue going on with the M 240 but then again, it could be the off color hue of the M9 images making the M 240 look off because I now see a green/yellowish hue to the M9 images that I shot back then.

One thing I learned is that when editing images I just go with what looks good to MY EYE instead of worrying and stressing over calibrated displays, etc. I have sold images for thousands of dollars without stressing about any of that. I just enjoy shooting and eyeball the color. With the new M it seems easier to get a rich warm color I like. The M9 with this Summarit was cooler in the output. Take a look below…

First the 90 Summarit on the M240 here in 2014

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…and now the 90 Elmarit on the M9 in 2010

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This is the least expensive NEW 90mm Leica lens for your M! 

When the Summarit line was launched (BEFORE the M9 was launched during the end of the M8 days) the 90 came in at $1600 or so. Today it is $2150 because Leica lenses go up in price every single year. This means if you bought a Summarit back then and wanted to sell it today you could probably get about what you paid for it.

This is the good thing about Leica. If you buy a lens and keep it for a long time you will not lose money. The Leica lenses are legendary and due to the fact that they have the balls to raise prices every year means that a Leica lens is indeed and can be an “investment” if you keep them long-term.

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At $2150 the 90mm Summarit is NOT cheap..no way, no how. BUT, it is a REAL Leica German optic and a REAL Leica lens! Anyone who says differently has no idea what they are talking about. It feels, shoots and gives the IQ of a pure Leica lens and like I said, the value does not drop like a rock after a few years, instead, it holds value. You also get the warranty when buying new so that is always a good thing. The 90 is on the higher contrast side when looking at out of camera images (most of what you see here) but of course with the extended DR of the M 240 you can make  them much loess contrasty if you wish.

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Detail..is this lens sharp?

Yes, this lens is sharp. Take a look below and click on the image to see the 100% crop embedded inside.

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My conclusion on the Leica 90 Summarit Lens

My lens reviews always seem to be short, especially when a lens is fantastic and has no real weakness. The 90 Summarit is one of those lenses. It is small, light, high quality in build and feel and performs exceptionally well. The rendering is a mix of modern and classic and can be as sharp as a tac. The colors are rich, saturated and lovely, especially on the new M 240. (See my M 240 review here). While I have not traditionally been a 90mm shooter I am starting to enjoy it more and more and understand why so many love this focal length.

An all summarit kit would be killer for those wanting the true 100% Leica experience without going bankrupt buying the Summilux and Summicron models. All you lose is some speed (which may not really even be needed), a slightly longer minimum focus distance and the Leica leather case (instead you get a nice felt style cloth bag).

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If you are not 100% committed to the 90mm focal length I suggest giving the 90 Summarit a try. It may not be as exotic as the Summicron but for me it was more enjoyable to shoot due to weight and no focus issues with the Summarit. Highly recommended for those wanting a 90mm solution for their Leica M!

Mine came from the legendary Ken Hansen who is a TOP Leica dealer with amazing service that has to be experienced. Ken is the man. He has this lens in stock and if you mention me, who knows..he may cut you a deal. (Don’t hold me to that though..I have no idea if he can or not). :)

You can e-mail Ken at [email protected]

I will leave you with a few more snaps that I shot around town from the 90 Summarit on the Leica M 240!

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Sep 202013
 

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Spooky Fun with 50mm. Summilux, Summarit and Nikkor 5cm

I was going through my bag today and wiping down my Leica M 240 as it was getting full of smudges, dust and skin oils. I looked down into my bag and stared at the three 50mm lenses that lay inside on this particular day.

  1. The 50 Summilux ASPH
  2. The 50 Summarit 1.5 (Vintage)
  3. The 5cm Nikkor 1.4 (Vintage 50mm)

The Nikkor 5cm, 50 Summilux ASPH and 50 Summarit

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First of all, there is not much I can say that has not been said of the legendary and amazing 50mm Summilux ASPH. I still say it is the best 50mm in the world for any camera system. While expensive at $3995, many times it is all one needs with a Leica M body. One camera, one lens. If there was ever any one lens to own with a Leica, this is it. I have written so much about this lens over the years and have shot it with an M6, M7, MP, M8, M9, MM and now the M.

It is a fantastic lens that everyone should at least try once in their life if they shoot with a Leica M or Zeiss Ikon or Epson RD-1 (when I 1st used the lens it was with an RD-1 years ago). Also, if those Sony rumors are true, and a high-end FF mirrorrless is on the way then a lens like the 50 Lux will be a hot commodity once again. I imagine it would do amazingly well on something such as a Sony FF, if indeed  that really happens.

If so, Leica Dealers Ken Hansen and the Pro Shop have plenty in stock right now. :)

So after looking at these lenses in my bag today and cleaning them up a bit I asked Debby to throw on a Halloween mask I picked up a few days ago for $10. It’s creepy as well as spooky and with Halloween coming up soon, I figured it could come in handy for a creepy lens test :)

So what I will show you first is a series of three images. One taken with the 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4, one with the classic Leica Summarit 1.5 at 1.5 and one with the 50mm Nikkor 1.4 Vintage RF Lens. Then I will talk a little more about the Nikkor and Summarit and why at least one of these lenses is good to have in ones stable of lenses, even if you have a Summilux already.

The 1st image: Taken with the 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4, wide open. Click it to see the detail. It’s clean, and it has the micro contrast the older lenses lack.

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The classic 50 Summitar at 1.5. This lens is a fave of mine though I only use it sparingly due to the special effect Bokeh. 

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The 5cm Nikkor 1.4 – A classic and sometimes hard to find lens in the rangefinder world. This one is LTM mount and needs an adapter that costs $10 to fit an M. It can focus to .4 meters but you must use live view to do so.

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Three images of the same subject with each lens wide open. Each lens renders in a totally different way when shot at the maximum aperture. The Summilux is contrasty, crisp and has a smoother Bokeh effect with higher micro contrast. The Summitar is wild, with a melting blob of blur behind the subject (which is actually pretty sharp considering the age of the lens) and finally, the Nikkor. The Nikkor is a Sonnar design so gives an even different rendering with that classic glow we expect from older vintage glass. Which one do you prefer? Do you have a vintage heart? Hmmmmmm.

Two more:

Converted to B&W with the DXO film pack, this one was with the Summarit. Many HATE the look of this lens, I LOVE it but only on certain occasions will I use it. These lenses can be had for as little at $350 and as high as $800 depending on condition. I have had 4 of them looking for the best one and all were fantastic and in fact, the one that was the most beat was the best performer.  The subject pops out of a blob of blur! Click it for a much better view!

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again with the Summilux ASPH, but this one at f/2. 

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Summarit 1.5

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So why would I own all of these 50mm lenses? To be honest I own two other 50’s because I am a 50mm junkie! But remember, these classic lenses are cheap when you think of “Leica” pricing so it is easy to own multiples when talking about classic vintage glass. For example, the 50 Summarit I settled with cost me $399. It has some slight cleaning marks, a couple of visible marks on the front element and the barrel looks old and worn. But, the focus is spot on and it was the sharpest of the ones I have owned and tried by a slight margin. So $399 vs $3995, big difference. But the Summarit is nothing like a Summilux ASPH. They are totally different beasts and are tricky to master :)

Two more from the 50 Summarit 1.5 wide open. They have a unique character that only this lens will give.

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The Nikkor 5cm 1.4 LTM

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As for the Nikkor, I have been curious about this lens for a long while now after testing Ashwin Rao’s copy of it at his home in Seattle. I liked the fact that it was a Sonnar design AND had close focus ability, much closer than the usual .7 meters of the modern Leica glass. I believe the Nikkor focuses as close as 1.4 feet compared to 2.3 feet of the Lux ASPH. But to use this feature you need Live View because once you pass .7 meters it loses rangefinder coupling and can not be focused with the RF.

Still, it offers a Sonnar quality and close focusing in a small and tiny solid all metal package. I found an EX condition copy that is MINT+ with perfect focus, no damage and in chrome for $599. Not exactly cheap, but again, much less than buying new Leica glass that will run you anywhere from $2000-$11000. Plus, experimenting with classic lenses is fun and they are easily resold if you decide the lens is not for you.

After all of this time and finding the Nikkor 5cm 1.4 close focus lens I am not 100% I will keep it. It is gorgeous, it is haze free, fungus free and scratch free but at the same time, I am not sure I will ever use it when I have a Lux, Summarit and even a Nokton and Cron lying around! I am a 50mm madman!

The Nikkor 5cm 1.4 LTM on the M 240

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The M240 is a pretty amazing camera, and fun as well. With so many adapters available today you can mount SO many lenses on to the camera and use them due to the M now having Live View. Want to mount a Canon lens, Nikon Lens or even a Soviet Helios 40-2? Go for it. Using the Live View and EVF you can focus these lenses even though they are not RF coupled. Sure MANY mirrorless cameras can do this, but the Leica M 240 is the only one that is full frame, at least for now.

I expect that over the next couple of years I will try a slew of lenses out just for fun because some lenses render in such a unique way that they are worth owning just for those occasions when you want that look.

Old vintage rangefinder lenses can be found easily, some are very rare and some are readily available. Some are insanely cheap starting at $90 and some are pricey in the $1500+ range. I like having a modern 50 and a vintage 50. Which one I grab depends on my mood really :) My fave vintage 50mm lens is the Leica Summarit 1.5 in LTM mount. I also loved the Canon Dream Lens but at $3k, could not justify it as  keeper as it is a special effect lens. The Nikkor 5cm is also very nice and the close focus sets it apart along with the classic and vintage glow. There are so many 50’s out there but I warn you…if you start trying them out it can get addicting! SO be warned :)

To those reading who own or have shot with vintage 50mm lenses, which is YOUR favorite and why?

May 312013
 

I’m back! Some Leica M 240 pics from my trip!

My full M 240 review is here

I am back! But some of you had no idea I was gone all of last week because through the magic of blogging I had several posts all set to go live each and every day last week. I had very limited internet access all week as I was on a mini vacation with my fiancée Debby at Disneyland in California. We were there for four days and had a blast though these old feet have taken a serious beating with three days of nonstop morning until night walking and line waiting! If you e-mailed me last week and did not get an answer yet, this is the reason why. I had no way to get to all of the e-mails but I will be doing my best to get back to everyone over the weekend or on Monday.

We spent the week at Disneyland in Anaheim California and I did indeed have my Leica M240 with me and while I only snapped around 40 shots, I had it tucked away in a Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 20 with the 50 Summicron and 50 Summarit. Yep, just two 50’s, OH and a couple of shots were taken with the Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 (which does exhibit the nasty color edges with the 240 just like the M9, but rocks in B&W). The camera with two 50’s and the charger fit neatly into the Mirrorless Mover 20 and it was absolutely perfect.

The camera survived all of the rides, all of the walking and the heat and humidity without one issue or quirk. The RF stayed spot on even with rides on Space Mountain, The Matterhorn and Tower of Terror :) Yea, I believe in using my gear! While at Disneyland I saw countless EOS Rebels and Nikon DSLR’s. I saw maybe three Sony NEX cameras and one Olympus OM-D. A few point and shoots but the #1 camera I saw at Disneyland were SMART PHONES! Yes, those are the hottest cameras as almost everyone has one.

I did see ONE Leica other than mine and it was a D-Lux 5, but that was it. One of the girls at a Cafe thought I had an antique film camera and she was surprised when I told her it was digital..and of course she loved it though she had no idea of the cost :)

Anyway…

Below are just a few of the snaps I took. Nothing fancy but just posting them for those who want to see more M 240 real world shots. Some of these have been processed with Alien Skin, others are direct from camera. Most were with the 50 Summicron and a one was shot with the 50 Summarit with a small handful with the 15mm. The one Summarit shot should be easy to spot  as well as the 15mm images.

I hope everyone had a great week! Click images for larger, crisper, more colorful versions!

Coming in the next week or two – MUVI HD review, Ricoh GR 1st look and review, Amy Medina’s review of the SLR Magic 35 T1.4 and a look at the Canon 0.95 on the M 240 as well as the Canon 50 1.4 LTM via Guest Post! Stay tuned!

All images below were taken with the M240 as vacation snapshots..nothing more and nothing less. I only took the M out for one of the four days as I wanted to concentrate on spending time and having fun with my Fiancee :) But the images I did capture look great to my eyes. As for the Leica “Look” that all depends on what lens is being used.

CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND BETTER VIEW! If you do not you are seeing compressed and duller images!

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The image below WAS shot with the Voigtlander 15mm 4.5, at 4.5 lat at night. 

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The image below was taken while in line for tower of terror, in the dark and was an OOC JPEG shot in B&W at ISO 6400. 

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Mar 312012
 
Painting Zürich with vintage spring colors with 50 mm Summarit 1.5 on an M9-P
Hi Steve! As a long time visitor from your site I enjoy the practical information and the reviews from other users on your website. In the past I used to visit other sites , but looking back to these sites with all these graphs and technical information this was probably an overkill. At the end of a review you would be dounted with numbers but having little visible information on how serious the issue might be or not for practical use!
Currently I am the lucky owner of an M9-P, I was introduced to it by a working colleague, it is one nice piece of machinery and feeling shooting with it. I had to get used to it, using an EOS more or less only for sports shooting! I am slowly getting the hang of it. What lenses are concerned I own a 35 Summicron, the latest version and two vintage 50 mm lenses. A 50 mm Titanium edition summilux (which looks quite good on a total black M9-P!!) and a 50 mm Summarit 1.5 – which this practical review is about. The pictures in this review are not post processed in anyway – some are a little cropped – but all are directly converted from RAW to JPG using iPhoto – i resized them using LR. With the M9-P I shot DNG and Black and White JPG. The black and whites pictures therefore are straight out of camera. Unless otherwise noted the pictures were taken wide open (between 1.5 and 2.8) unless otherwise noted.
During the past months I have read a reasonable amount of reviews on vintage lenses and the results always amazed me. If you look around on the web on these lenses you read about people who love them and hate them and you read a lot of warnings as well. Until recently al these warning actually held me back acquiring one until just recently I saw this 50 mm Summarit 1.5 on display here in Zürich and after a short “inspection” I couldn’t resist buying it. The glass was clean, there was a little bit of oil on the blades – but I thought what the heck lets get this lens and try it!
Since there might be enough people out there that might have drawbacks as well on getting such a lens I thought of providing you my experiences until now and real world samples so that people with an M/Nex/M4T/Fuji might have some leverage in getting it. The lens can be easily found on eBay within the range of $600 to $1500 – depending on the quality.
The first tests I did was making sure if the focus was alright and it was snap on from the closest distance until 10 mm and infinity. Actually I thought I could focus quicker with this 50 mm summarit as with my 35 mm Summicron – but that might  just be a personal preference.
The colors you get from this lens are just as putting a vintage filter on your eyes – they are flatter – even though I think red and blue’s are sometimes a little more pronounced and of course there is this famous Leica Glow on it!
The flat colors can be easily tuned in LR, on the other hand preparing your pictures to look vintage is a completely other story and such a lens does the trick in every shot! Actually if you look at the black and whites straight from the camera – these are lovely!
The Bokeh of this lens is similar to the results you have obtained with your rigid summicron test – a nice swirly bookeh – just as with the rigid summicron. I think this might not be everybody’s cup of tea but it adds character to the pictures and as you can see from the pictures it is not always as pronounced.
I can support the results of older lenses that wide open these lenses are a little soft – but oh man – look at the results I got on this fountain wide open with this lens – simply amazing! If you close it down from up 2.8 upward this lens gets almost as sharp as current lenses!
Lets move on to the pictures – enjoy!
Mar 282012
 

The Great 35mm Rangefinder Lens Shootout! UPDATED!

by Brad Husick March 27, 2012

Many of us have GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and have amassed a generous collection of lenses for our rangefinder cameras. The problem with having a wide selection of lenses to choose from is that when we reach up to grab a lens for our next shoot it’s sometimes hard to decide what to take. At one point my collection was up to 22 lenses and at that point I had become a collector as much as a photographer. Well, over the past few years I have whittled that collection down to the lenses I like most just for their optical qualities. My collecting interest has been refocused on photographs – the ones I take.

Fortunately for this test I still own too many lenses and I have a close friend who owns many more, so I thought I’d begin a series of tests with 35mm rangefinder lenses. These are not laboratory controlled tests of carefully arranged objects but a typical outdoor scene from a local spot here on Lake Washington near Seattle – a subject more people are likely to shoot from day-to-day. The results are my subjective opinion of the optical quality of the photos, and I am including 100% crops for you to make your own conclusions. Here’s the full frame 35mm shot:

Test Setup:

The test was set up to control and keep constant as many of the variables as possible. Photos were taken on a Leica M9-P mounted on a tripod, set at ISO 160, shutter speed 1/750 sec., aperture f/4, lenses set to their infinity focus point. Not all the lenses had the same maximum aperture and the day was bright enough that trying to shoot wide-open would have required the use of ND filters. I did not want to introduce any glass in front of the lenses for this test. The shutter was tripped using the 2-second self timer to minimize any hand vibrations. RAW files were brought into Adobe Lightroom 4 and exported as JPEG files with no adjustments from default settings.

The weather here in Seattle was in the 50’s with complete overcast and light winds. We get this ideal overcast many days a year – great for photographs, not too great for sun tanning.

The Eight Contestants in the Shootout:

MS Super Triplet Perar f3.5 Mark II (Perar)

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Leica Summarit-M f3.5, current version (Summarit)

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Zeiss Biogon f2.0 T* ZM Silver (Zeiss)

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Leica Summilux f1.4 ASPH FLE (FLE)

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Leica Summicron-M f2.0 ASPH Chrome (Chrome ASPH)

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Leica Summicron-M f2.0 ASPH Black (Black ASPH)

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Voigtlander C Color Skopar Classic f2.5 (Skopar)

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Leitz Summaron f2.8 LTM/M circa 1959 (Summaron)

Lens Results:

I examined 100% crops near the center of the frame and at the top left corner. I studied the files looking for overall sharpness and ability to resolve detail, micro-contrast, lack of chromatic aberration (fringing) and distortion.

Not surprisingly, the Leica Summilux ASPH FLE was the top performer at both the center and corner of the frame. Leica took an already excellent lens, the Summilux ASPH, and corrected the focus shift issue by incorporating a new floating element in the FLE. The price of the new lens climbed substantially, with some selling for nearly $8000 a few months after introduction when the initial supply ran dry. Prices have since settled around $6500.

Somewhat surprising is how well the Zeiss Biogon performed, especially at the center, scoring a second place for center performance. Sharpness and detail were excellent. Overall contrast was higher than the FLE perhaps due to different lens coatings. Ergonomics are superb with buttery smooth focus and f-stop. Some may not like the chrome ring around the front of the lens that functions as a bayonet for the optional hood, but I don’t think it detracts from the lens. The Zeiss is the performance-value winner here with new lenses available for around $1000.

I compared two seemingly identical Leica Summicron-ASPH lenses, one black and the other chrome. They were not optically identical. The chrome lens was marginally superior at both the center and corner. This could be due to some slight variation in infinity focus between the two lenses. The pair of Summicron-ASPH lenses scored well, coming in second and third at the corner and third and forth at the center. The Summicron has always been a staple of the Leica shooter and will probably remain there. Used prices range from $2500-$3000.

Leica’s modern Summarit-M is positioned as an entry level lens for the Leica shooter, and is a small and affordable package. Optically however, the Summarit came in fifth in the ranking for overall softness and a lack of micro contrast; a somewhat disappointing result for a modern lens design. The Summarit is list priced at $1895 with clean used lenses selling for $1400.

The Leitz Summaron from 1959 is a beautiful lens with sculpted sloping edges and an unusual focus tab that incorporates an infinity lock. Sharpness of the Summaron was soft, but lacked any chromatic aberration – a surprising result for such an old design and the state of lens coatings from that time period. The softness of the lens was pleasing, giving a somewhat nostalgic look to the photograph. Shooters looking for some of that classic old Leica glow won’t be disappointed with the Summaron. However, compared with modern optics the Summaron just can’t resolve the way the newer glass can perform. Clean used Summarons can be found for around $1000.

Last but not least in the shootout was a personal favorite – the unique MS Super Triplet Perar, often called simply the “Perar”. It’s been a favorite of mine because it is simply tiny. It’s smaller than any Leica collapsible lens in the collapsed state! The aperture is step-free and the focus is smooth with a focus “pin” to assist. Traveling with this lens is a joy since it barely sticks out from the front of the camera and it’s always in a ready-to- shoot position, unlike collapsible lenses. As good as the physical design and ergonomics are, the optical performance of the lens is not up to the standards set by the more complicated and expensive lenses in this test. Perar images are good at center but sharpness falls off at the edges. Perar lenses can be found on ebay and at the maker’s website www.japanexposures.com.

Vignetting is not a problem for any of these lenses and chromatic aberration is well handled by the entire group.

Here are my subjective rankings of the lenses:

Note: I’d like to thank my dear friend Ed (goes by the handle “fishandfowl” on many boards) for making available five of the lenses in this test. Ed introduced me to rangefinder photography and thus improved my life greatly.

Brad

UPDATE!!

ARTICLE UPDATE (3-29-12):
In my initial test the Skopar performed quite poorly when set to the infinity focus setting on the lens. I re-ran the test, this time backing the focus off from infinity by the smallest amount I could turn the ring in the case where the infinity stop was overshooting slightly. Center sharpness improved substantially while edge distortion remained problematic. This is probably due in part to the Leica Thread Mount (LTM) – to – Leica M bayonet adapter being used.

Here are the new Skopar crops:

Based on these new results I have revised my rankings:

Some visitors posted comments about the overall quality of the images in comparison to other camera systems. To assist in evaluating these images, I have included two more cameras – the Leica D-Lux 5, a highly respected small-imager camera set to 35mm zoom, f/4 and base ISO, and the Apple iPhone 4S, an 8 megapixel imager with an approximate angle of view of 30mm. I think most readers will agree that neither measures up to the images produced with the Leica M9-P. The iPhone was surprisingly good for a phone and has the unique quality of always being at hand when a photo is required.

iPhone 4s

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D-Lux 5

Jan 242011
 

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New lens reviews coming soon for Leica!

Im busy shooting two Leica lenses I have never shot before. The Leica 50 Summarit 2.5 and the 90 Summarit 2.5. I am shooting and testing them on an M8 and M9 so we can see the differences between the two cameras. Lots of M8 shooters still frequent this site so I am happy to be able to still test lenses on the classic M8! The 50 review should be up within 2 weeks shortly followed by the 90.

My 1st impressions of these lenses are that for the money they are just as good as the 35 and 75 summarits I have shot with. The whole summarit line is fantastic and if you want to buy new glass from Leica then these offer the most “bang for the buck”. Of course you could always search for a used 50 Summicron or 90 Elmarit but for new options the Summarit line is the most affordable in the Leica line up.

I was testing out shooting them yesterday while my son had his puppy over at my house. I still LOVE the M8 and feel it is still today a great camera to own if you cant swing the M9. In decent light with a good lens the M8 still provides IQ good enough for almost any situation.

Reviews will be coming soon! Oh and  thanks to Ken Hansen for sending me the lenses to test out! As usual, he has them all in stock. HIs email is [email protected]

This one was shot with the Leica M8 and 50 Summarit wide open at 2.5 and ISO 160 – click image for larger version

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and one from the M9 and 90 Summarit at 2.5 – click image for larger version

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Dec 272010
 

The Leica M8 vs The Sony NEX-5 with the Leica 50 Summarit Lens

Happy Monday to all, and again, Happy Holidays! Today I decided to do a quick comparison between two cameras that are still pretty hot. The Leica M8 and the Sony NEX-5. Many say the NEX-5 is a better buy than the older M8 because with the Sony you can use an Adapter to mount Leica M lenses and from what I have been hearing, many are saying that this yields better results than using the Leica M8. First off, shooting these cameras will bring you two TOTALLY different experiences. With the M8 I can shoot MUCH faster and with superb precision over the NEX-5 with the same lens via an adapter. The M8 is a rangefinder and the NEX-5 as we all know, is NOT.

I also know there have been articles here and there about the NEX-5 with Leica glass, but this time I wanted to see the NEX go head to head against the M8 in regards to image quality using the same lens.

So this comparison is only about image quality. Is the NEX-5 capable of better image quality than the M8? It does have more megapixels at 14 vs 10. It does have better high ISO performance as well but the M8 has the advantage (or so it seems) because it does not have an AA filter, so we should get more detail from an M8 shot than a NEX-5 shot with the same glass, right? Or is it ALL BOUT THE GLASS?

I wanted to find out! So thanks to SLR Magic who sent me their very well made Leica M to Sony NEX Adapter, I was able to try yet another Leica lens on my NEX-5. Also, thanks to Leica Dealer Ken Hansen I was able to shoot the M8 along with the 50 and 90 Summarit lenses. He sent them to me to try out for a while since I never reviewed the 50 or 90 Summarits lenses, so that was VERY cool of him! Ken seems to always have used M8’s in stock as well as the Summarit lenses, and he always has amazing service and prices. If you are looking for any new or used Leica, send him an email at [email protected] and he will get back with you pretty fast.

OK! On to the pics!

First, a straight comparison. These two images are full size files out of the camera from RAW. No PP involved. What do you see between the two?

First up, The M8 file…click on the image for the full size version – 50 Summarit at F4

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now the file from the NEX-5 and 50 Summarit at F/4

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In the images above it seems the NEX-5 edges are TEENY BIT softer than the M8 (when viewing the full size image at 100%) but the NEX-5 is still pretty detailed and sharp. This is not meant to be a good picture, just a test shot. Plus, it was mid day and the AZ sun is pretty hard. Still we can see the same image shot with each camera and the same lens.

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Here is one more comparison between the two using the same 50 Summitar lens. In this one, the M8 file seems much sharper when viewing the full size file. Each camera has the 50 Summarit mounted and I shot these at f2/5

First the M8 file…

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and the NEX-5 file…

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In this one the M8 file is sharper and more vibrant with much more detail. This was all it took for me to see that the M8 is superior in regards to detail and even color. Also, the shooting experience for me was funner and faster with the M8. You do lose the high ISO capability, you lose the size advantage as the NEX is tiny, and you lose all of the whiz bang features of the NEX. Also, you would lose some cash. A used M8 is usually around $2200-$2600. Add the Summarit lens and you are at about $3600-$3800. The NEX-5 is $649 with a 16mm lens. Add adapter and lens and you would be at $2200 total. Still a load of cash huh?

One more quick “for fun” comparison…

First is from the Leica M8 with 50 Summitar at F/2

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Now the NEX-5 with 50 Summarit at F/2.5

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I did not add the M9 to this test because I usually see people comparing the NEX-5 to the M8. Yes the NEX can use Leica glass and YES it can provide awesome results, but the old M8 still stands above it just a bit for flat out IQ IMO. The NEX-5 and Leica glass combo is still pretty sweet though and the 50 Summarit lens is great on the camera. This is Leicas cheapest lens (that you can buy new) at about $1400 and it is a great little 50. It reminds me a little of the 50 Summicron but with a more modern signature. I still have not found a Leica lens I did not love :)

Below are a few more snapshots from both cameras.

NEX-5 – 50 Summarit – F/2.5

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NEX-5 – 50 Summarit – F/2.5

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Leica M8

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Leica M8 at ISO 1250

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Leica M8 and 50

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Both camera combos offer great IQ and the Sony color can be very rich and deep when using Leica glass. But for me, the shooting experience goes to the Leica M8 and the overall versatility goes to the NEX combo. I like ‘em both!

Again, thanks to Ken Hansen for sending me the M8 and lenses to try out for this test. I believe this used M8 that he sent me is for sale and it’s in perfect condition, box and all. If interested email him at [email protected] and ask him about the M8 I have right now. Ken is a great guy and he doesn’t pay me to mention him.

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Feb 052010
 

QUICK OUT OF CAMERA JPEG COMPARISON BY STEVE HUFF  – Olympus E-P2 with 20 1.7 and Leica M9 with 50 Summicron  – all at F2

It’s been raining all day but last night I had a dream that I went out and did some oddball comparison with the Olympus E-P2 and 20 1.7 at F2 with a Leica M9 and 50 Summicron but using only out of camera JPEGS.

In my dream the E-P2 won becuase it is well known that the E-P2 JPEGS are very good while the general thoughts about the M9 are that you must shoot RAW for the best quality. So, I woke up with a “Crazy Comparison” on my mind and wanted to see how a $7000 camera with alleged so so JPEG performance would compare to a $1000 camera with super JPEG performance.

As with past comparisons, this is just for fun so take it for what it is. It can show you how each camera and lens combo will render the scene. Of course you will get less depth of field (more background blur) with the Leica due to the 50mm focal length. The Olympus with the 20 1.7 is giving you a 40mm equivalent focal length but with 20mm equivalent depth of field (less background blur). This is very apparent in the portrait below. No matter the sensor size, a 20mm lens will remain a 20mm lens in regards to depth of field. The E-P2 may turn that 20mm in to a 40mm in focal length equivalent but you will not get the depth of field of a 40mm lens. You will get the DOF of the 20mm lens.

Also, a reader of the site sent me his comparisons with his M9 and Panasonic GH1 and those will be posted after this one :)

Let’s get started! ALL IMAGES IN THIS COMPARISON ARE OUT OF CAMERA JPEGS! Both cams set to “A” mode.  Click any image for 1800 pixel wide version!

The M9 straight from camera JPEG – 50 cron at F2 – ISO 160 –

UPDATE – Just added the FULL SIZE file – CLICK HERE FOR 18MP M9, BUT THIS ONE FROM RAW

E-P2 straight from camera JPEG with 20 1.7 at F2

UPDATE – Click HERE FOR FULL SIZE FILE from RAW!

Leica M9 straight JPEG  50 cron at F2

Olympus E-P2 straight JPEG – 20 1.7 at F2

Leica M9 straight JPEG – 50 cron at F2

E-P2 with 20 1.7 at F2 – This one shows that AF is not always on target! I used single point AF and focused on the yellow pillar/post but the camera focused on the dirt behind it.

There you go! The E-P2 does great but it certainly cannot give you the look of the M9 with its full frame sensor. Still, $7k + separate these cameras/lens combo. Wow! In my opinion Leica shines the most when shooting fast lenses wide open and for people/portraits the Leica always pulls out the magic :) I did one more comparison with a portrait to see the differences. I had a few requests for this last month, but it was already getting dark out by the time my wife arrived home from work so I was running out of light and the AWB of BOTH shots were really odd so what I did was convert each to B&W and did a little of the same processing on each image.

The M9 is with the 50 F2 at F2 and the E-P2 is with the 20 1.7 at F2.

M9, 50 Cron at F2 – Converted to B&W with SIlver Efex Pro – Click for larger

Olympus E-P2 with 20 1.7 at F2 – converted to B&W with Silver Efex Pro – Click for larger

What this shows more than anything else is the kind of “bokeh” you will get from the 20 1.7 at F2 compared to a 50 F2 on the M9. Notice how the background is more blurred with the Leica even though both were shot at F2? This is because you are getting more depth of field with the 20 1.7 as it is a wider lens. Even with its 2X crop and the E-P2 making it a 40mm equivalent you still get 20mm “bokeh”.


ANOTHER QUICK COMPARISON BY JERRY RUDZINSKI – Panasonic GH1 with 14-140 and the Leica M9 with 90 Elmarit and 35 Summarit. This time with RAW files.

This is so cool and yes, it is another crazy comparison! This time a reader of this website sent me his comparisons and I asked if I could share them with all of you. He went out at night with his Leica M9/35 Summarit/90 Elmarit, and his Panasonic GH1/14-140 to do some low light comparisons. Again, as with the last few of these I know that this is not a fair comparison. You have a $7000 camera with a $1800 lens on one side and a $1200 combo on the other. These were sent into me by Jerry Rudzinski and he did use a tripod with the GF1 and 14-140. Here is what he had to say about this comparison:

Small comparison between M9 (35mm Summarit 2.5, 90mm 2.8 Tele Elmarit) and GH1 (14-140mm) on ISO 200 & tripod

– all photos are processed RAW files in LR

– the same vignetting, clarity, contrast & medium sharpening were applied

– I regret I had no 20mm 1.7 with me, that would cause better quality of u43

– M9 aperture is only approximation wrote by camera to EXIF

Purpose was not to compare everything exactly (there are test portals for that), but just general overview.


In other words, Jerry did this for fun :) I do the same things and I think these are pretty fun comparisons to do. Also note that he did not try to match up the aperture or do anything scientific. These were done out of curiosity and to show how each camera renders the scene. He even shot the M9 pretty much wide open and kept the Panasonic at F8. With that said, ONTO THE PICS!

Leica M9/90 Elmarit – 2.8

GH1 with 14-140 at F8 – Tripod

The M9 and 90 Elmarit between F2.8-F4

The GH1 combo at 48mm and F8

M9 and 90 Elmarit at 2.8

GH1 at F5.5 – 48MM

M9 and 35 Summarit F2.5-F2.8

GH1 at 18mm (36mm equiv) and F8

Thanks Jerry for the samples!


Feb 022010
 

This past weekend while on my way to visit the old factories of St. Louis, MO I stopped in the very small town of Centralia, IL to visit Elmwood Cemetery. Why would I do this you ask? Well, I wanted to stop in so I could visit and photograph the grave of “Violin Annie”. The cemetery is an old one and used to be called “Centralia Cemetery” but in the 20’s was changed to Elmwood. I have heard stories of this cemetery for a few years and found out that it dates back to the 1860’s. On my way in driving through the town I felt like I was heading back in time. The town is small and looks like it has not had any updates since the 1970’s and it literally  takes 3 minutes to drive through. The town looked empty but maybe that was because it was a Sunday.

As I drove I saw an old Motel sign which was almost like a welcome sign upon entering the town and showed me a pretty nice image of what appeared to be a great place to stay, just six blocks ahead. As I drove past the sign something told me that the billboard has probably been there since the 60s or 70s. Then six blocks down I pulled into the actual Motel parking lot to check it out.

The motel has certainly seen better days and it appears that it has been closed down for quite some time. But I was not in this town to see an old motel but rather the grave of “Violin Annie”. The cemetery has approximately 17,000 graves and I was looking for one. As I drove in I immediately spotted the tall monument with the little girl, “Harriet Annie” standing atop with her violin. I shot this image with my M9 and 35 Summarit at F2.5.

She died at the age of 11 of diphtheria and legend has it that if you enter the cemetery at night you can here the sounds of Annie playing her violin ever so softly. In life she loved her violin and played it for family and friends on a daily basis. She was so attached to her violin that after her death the family had this massive monument erected for her. This was my second visit to the cemetery to see the grave site and this time I was all alone. I snapped pictures, swapped lenses and even sat near the grave for 10 minutes. I never did hear the strings but I did feel at peace. It was quiet and oddly it felt sort of warm which was a shocker.

I ended up with 20 images and for the this one I wanted to get in close so I pulled out my 90 Elmarit and shot this at 2.8.

There are many legends about Annie, some even say that her father beat her to death with her violin but that is pure storytelling meant to spook the teens who enter this cemetery at night. One group of ghost hunters who visited this site claimed to have seen the statue glow while others have claimed to see green tears flowing from the eyes of Annie. Upon close inspection, I could see green moss or mold on her face and under her eyes. I have always been into ghost hunting and the paranormal mainly because of an otherworldly experience my family had on the night of my Fathers death. It was very intense, very real and ever since then I have had a curiosity about spirits, ghosts and the afterlife.

Update 2014: I am now very well known in the Paranormal world with a TV show in the works (2014) but I insist on it being 100% real which is why I previously turned down two other TV offers. This is one other field besides photography that I am very passionate about. You can see more of what I do HERE.

I find old cemeteries like this fascinating and love to photograph unique graves like the  one of “Violin Annie”. I also like the adventure of finding these small towns where most of the cemeteries can be found. The story of Violin Annie can be found in a few books about haunted locations but I feel it was a story made up long ago by kids who probably dared each other to go inside the spooky cemetery at night. Makes for a nice slumber party story :)

I shot these images with the Leica M9 along with the 35 Summarit, 75 Summicron and 90 Elmarit.

Jan 312010
 

I’m back home after a long day of driving, walking and running for my life. Yep, I was nearly robbed today of my Leica M9 and lenses! What a way to spend a day :) I was out in St. Louis, MO today just driving around and looking for abandoned buildings to photograph. Not really knowing anything about St. Louis (as in what areas are good and what areas are bad) I just exited the freeway at the first sign of something interesting. I spotted a few old factories that looked empty and run down so I headed my little Toyota Prius in their direction.

Something was odd though. As I drove in to this industrial area it looked like a scene from a movie. No one was around and this appeared to be like a little ghost town with every factory closed and run down. Hmmm. It was mid day so the light was awful, but I pulled my car into a lot and got out to walk. There was graffiti everywhere but no one to be found. I spotted the old Southwestern Railway Freight Depot and it was heavily vandalized. There was even a Christmas tree hanging upside down on the “front porch” along with other decorations.

As I was taking these images I saw three men appear out of nowhere and approach me. They said “How are you today?” – I said “good”. They entered in to the building ignoring me and my camera. I turned around, got in my car and drove down a block or so to the next factory.

This image was taken at the Laclede Power Company. Windows were busted out and the building looked like a mess. As I looked around I saw no one. The three guys from the last stop were no where to be found so I moved on to St. Louis Refrigeration and Cold Storage where I saw these steps:

As I snapped a couple of these steps I heard someone speaking and yelling so I hopped up once again and hopped in my car to get out of the area. I was starting to get a but nervous as things did not look to safe, especially when carrying $10K worth of gear around my neck. Before leaving I did manage to grab a shot of this old brick warehouse:

On the way out I spotted Union Electric Light and Power Company which appears to be in operation. The building was MASSIVE and looked amazing. I pulled in to the front parking lot and stepped out to get a quick shot. I knelt down and grabbed this..

After I snapped this shot, I was going to get a few different angles. I was leaning against a wall when an old beat up 1980’s car pulled up and two VERY rough looking guys get out and start to walk up to me. They said “What are you doing here Bro?” – I was thinking “OH SHIT…” and then remembered that A: My car was like 2 feet behind me and B: I left the door open, and C: I left it running. I quickly turned around, hopped in the car and was able to take off quickly. The two guys got back in their car and followed me all the way to the expressway. Maybe they were just going to engage in some friendly chat? Who knows, but I got a bad vibe from these guys. When they pulled up, NO ONE else was around, anywhere. These guys came out of there car with an attitude so I am glad I did what I did.

After I was back home I looked up some info on this area and some say it is extremely dangerous while other say it is just full of homeless people who live in the buildings. The freight depot is supposedly pretty amazing inside with all kinds of elaborate graffiti. There is also said to be a very nice man named “Jeremiah” who “manages” the building, and yes he is homeless. Maybe I will go back another day but when I do, I will be sure to bring a couple of buddies with me.

The photographs here were all processed in CS4 and were all shot with my LeicaM9 and either a 35 summarit, 50 summicron or 75 summicron. My review for the 50 and 75 will be up really soon, one of them this week. Thanks for looking!

Jan 242010
 

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I had a few comments posted in my Leica 35 summarit lens review (see that review here) and 6 e-mails asking me for a comparison against the Zeiss ZM 35 Biogon F2 lens. These two 35mm lenses are considered by many Leica M photographers, but the Zeiss is a bit faster with a maximum F2 aperture and is less expensive! The Zeiss is much like the Leica 35 Summicron (pre-asph) in regards to speed and it  sells for about $1000 new. The Leica is a little slower at F2.5 and comes in at about $1700! So is the Leica worth the extra $700? I’ll let you decide.

Since I have both of the lenses here right now and had the requests asking me for a comparison I got the itch to do one. These were quick so no tripod!  What these results tell me is that there are color differences between these two lenses more than anything. The Zeiss ZM line has always produced pleasing, warm results. Leica tends to lean on the neutral to cool side.

This is not meant to be a great photo because it is not. Basically, I saw this pink truck with its cracks and rust and thought it would make a good subject for a comparison for color and detail. I pulled up behind it in my car and shot these from my open window. Keep in mind these were both shot at 2.5, ISO 160 with the same shutter speed which was 1/250th of a second. These were converted from DNG using ACR 5.6 with everything set to defaults. In other words, no color tweaks, no sharpening, etc. What you see is what came out of the camera.

First the Leica resized to 1100 pixels wide (click image for 1100 version) - CLICK HERE FOR FULL SIZE FILE

Now the Zeiss, click for 1100 pixel wide version CLICK HERE FOR FULL SIZE FILE

and now some 100% crops in case you do not have a high speed connection for the full size files:

To those who checked out the full files, what do you think? I see the warm/yellowish color cast on the Zeiss, but I see that in ALL Zeiss glass. It’s part of their look. As for detail, the 35 summarit looks to be a little better but the Zeiss is also good. I see vignetting on the Zeiss but did not set up the M9 lens menu with a lens choice.

Here is one more comparison and this time I set up the Zeiss as a pre-asph 35 summicron.

First the Leica 35 Summarit. F2.5, ISO 160, 1/1000th

Now the Zeiss with same settings but the lens set up in the M9 as a 35 Summicron pre-asph.

and the crops. Again, straight RAW conversion with defaults.

I see the same thing. The 35 Summarit is sharper and more neutral where the Zeiss Biogon is softer and puts out warmer color. But it appears there may be some CA with the Leica crop. Look inside the cracks of the wood. I see some purple :-o I do not see this in the Zeiss version. Wonder why? Also, you can see the Zeiss was indeed in focus by looking at the crop with sharpening added. This was not added in CS4, but ACR 5.6 during the conversion. Many were trying to say it was OOF but it was not. Remember, the original crops had NO sharpening applied in the RAW conversion.

As for build quality of the two lenses, the Leica seems to be made better. It feels more solid and the focusing is also solid. With the Zeiss I feel a little bit of play in the focus. I also felt that with the Zeiss 50 Planar. But the Zeiss I have here is a loaner and has been around the block a few times, so who knows? Both are good lenses and the Zeiss is close to being half the price of the Leica. It’s a bit softer and produces warmer colors. Also, it can vignette, especially at F2. All of the images here were shot at F2.5 to remain equal with the summarit.

UPDATE: This “quick” comparison has now turned into a not so quick comparison, he he. Anyway, here is one more from both lenses. These had slight sharpening applied this time:

Leica, straight from camera – light was HORRIBLE yesterday…F2.5, ISO 160, 1/500th – Click here for full size file

Now the Zeiss, same settings..Click here for original


Zeiss ZM Biogon 35 F2 at B&H Photo

Leica 35 Summarit F2.5 at B&H Photo

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Jan 232010
 


Leica 35 Summarit Lens Review - Since I live in the midwest and it just so happens to be January, I have been un-inspired lately to get out and look for things to photograph. On the days when it is not too cold, it is dark and grey. The days where there is some light peeking through the clouds it is too damn cold to go outside! I would rather be sitting in my house writing a review for the site with my toasty socks on and the heat cranked up! But I have been motivated. I recently took delivery of a new Leica lens from Ken Hansen and you know how that goes. Even if it is 10 degrees outside, when it is new lens day you go out and shoot. :lol:

Leica m9 – 35 summarit at 2.5 – converted to B&W with Silver Efex Pro – (vignetting added to this shot)

It’s Small, Light and Affordable (for Leica)

The small and light Leica 35 Summarit was a lens I have always dismissed. I admit, I have always been a speed demon when it comes to lenses. If I could find a way to afford them, the Summilux lenses would always find their way to my camera bag. But…over the years as you get older and wiser things sometimes change. Even though I never thought of buying a 35 summarit, lately I started to think about the benefits of owning this little lens. Also, as money gets harder to come by it’s always nice to have a less expensive option in Leica land. As long as the performance is there then why not spend less?

With that said, the 35 Summarit is one of the least expensive lenses in the Leica lens lineup. At $1695 it is the 2nd cheapest lens you can buy “new” from Leica. The 50 Summarit is the least expensive at $1395. For that reason, you would think that this would be the hottest selling lens for Leica. Cheap, small and a classic focal length that is a must own for any M shooter! But guess what? The summarit line is actually the slow sellers for Leica. I can only imagine that this is because some must think that due to the price that the performance is not there. Let me state right now that this is NOT TRUE. The Summarit line performs just as well as the summicrons and summilux’s in regards to image quality! Again, its just the speed. The 75 summarit I used to own was an AMAZING performing lens at a fraction of the summicrons price.

Did I say this lens was small? Yep! This is the second benefit of this lens. WIthout the hood on (which is an extra accessory that cost $$$) this lens is tiny! So it’s cheap (for Leica) and small, and a 35mm. Whats the catch? Why is it almost 1/2 the price of the Leica 35 summicron?

Well, a couple of years ago Leica released the “Summarit” line of lenses. They created these for all of the people who were just getting into Leica M shooting as a more affordable way to do so. Many Leica M buyers struggle with which lens to get and often times they settle for a Zeiss or Voigtlander lens due to the Leicas being so expensive. Not that Zeiss lenses are bad! Quite the opposite actually. But for many, when they buy their first Leica they want a Leica as their first lens. I understand it myself as I have usually always wanted to stay with Leica glass. I have shot with some fine Zeiss ZM lenses but still, at the end of the day I am a Leica guy. After all, there is nothing quite like a Leica lens on a Leica body. They are a perfect match! But let me state again, there are some amazing Zeiss ZM lenses and a few good Voigtlander lenses for the Leica M mount.

Here is the small and light 35 Summarit on the M9 with the optional hood attached:

Here is the weight of the lens with and without the hood. The lens comes in at 6.9 OZ without and 7.6 with. For comparison, the 35 Summicron is 8 oz without hood and the 35 lux is 8.8 oz.

The main reason these lenses are less expensive than their Summicron and Summilux counterparts is due to SPEED. Yep, the entire Summarit line are F2.5 lenses. This means that they are not as fast as the F2 Summicrons or the F1.4 Summilux lenses. They are also said to not be made as well but from my experience,  all of the Summarits are made beautifully. They are not quite as heavy as the others, and the aperture rings may not be as smooth as the summilux lenses, but in my opinion they are superb in their build and feel. Here is a short youtube video I made on the 35 Summarit lens so you can actually see it. I shot the video with the Olympus E-P2 and 20 1.7 lens.


SO DOES THE IMAGE QUALITY KEEP WITH LEICA STANDARDS?

So what about image quality? We all know that the 35 Summicron ASPH is pretty much as perfect as a 35mm lens can get. We also know the 35 Summilux has some serious magic in its rendering and has that Leica look many of use crave. So where does the little 35 Summarit fit in as far as image quality goes? I have been shooting with one for a while now and I have to say that I find this lens to have a rendering which is sharp but sweet. This is not a clinical lens but it’s also not a dreamy lens. For me, it is the perfect balance between being “too modern” and “too classical”! It’s in between, and with it not being an Aspherical lens, it will not be too modern looking in its rendering or “Draw”.

The bottom line as far as quality goes is that for $1695 you get a 35mm Leica lens that is 93.2% of the summicron. It’s a half of a stop slower and maybe not as perfect, but it’s also not as clinical. It’s a little warmer than the summicron but not as warm as the Zeiss line. It’s tiny, light, and beautiful on the Leica M9 body.

HOW ABOUT WITH THE OLYMPUS E-P2?

Since there is now an E-P2 is the house I bought a Novoflex M to M4/3 adapter and am now able to shoot M glass on the Olympus. No, this will not give you the magic qualities like you get from and M8 or M9 but it is fun to shoot these lenses on the Olympus. With the 35 summarit attached the little Oly feels solid and M like. Unfortunately the image quality is really no better than using the Panasonic 20 1.7. You do get better and richer color but you will not get that amazing bokeh and detail as the lens is limited by the m4/3 sensor. On the E-P2 the 35 Summarit becomes a 70 F2.5 as the m4/3 cameras have a 2X crop factor.

Would it be worth buying the adapter and this lens if you only have an m4/3 body? No. I suggest buying a Panasonic 20 1.7 instead. If you have a leica M body already then it is worth getting the adapter to have fun with your M lenses on the E-P2. It is just not worth spending $1600 for a lens that is limited by the camera you attach it to. Still, I do notice richer color with the Leica 35 Summarit when compared to the Panny 20 1.7. Also note, the minimum focus distance of the 35 Summarit is 0.9 meters, so you will not be able to get close like you can with the m4/3 lenses.

The 35 Summarit on the Olympus E-P2

Olympus E-P2 with Novoflex M to m4/3 Adpapter – 35 Summarit at F2.5

BOKEH, COLOR AND DETAIL. DOES THIS LENS DELIVER?

I am finding that the 35 summarit on the M9 can really give you a blend of Leica magic, smooth bokeh, warm colors, and more detail that you may want in your digital files. I have been shooting this lens mainly wide open at 2.5 and it has been as sharp and detailed as any lens I have ever shot with. It is not any less sharp than the summicron at 2.5. Period. It may vignette just a slight bit wide open but most will not even notice this. It is so slight and I have only noticed it when shooting with a light sky in the background. I have also shot with it on the Olympus E-P2 with an adapter (see the above image) and it has performed well but on the E-P2 it becomes a 70mm equivalent and some of the magic is lost due to that crop and the limits of the m4/3 sensor. Oh yes…this lens SHINES on the M9 in a pretty big way!

Let’s take  look at some images that will show you color and bokeh. I will even throw in a link to a full size original (or two) so you can see for yourself just how sharp this lens is on the M9:

This is a straight from camera image with the M9. No PP. Converted from RAW/DNG in Adobe Camera Raw 5.6. Click image for large 1800 PX wide version, or click HERE for full size.

Wow! Will you look at that detail? If you clicked on to see the full size file you will see how sharp this lens is on the M9, and this image was shot at F2.5. Wide open. You can also see just how slight the vignetting if you look close enough, but again, most would probably not even see it. The lens obviously is sharpest in the center of the frame, but overall its damn good. Again, this lens does not give you a “clinical” presentation like the 35 Summicron. To me, this lens actually puts out a more pleasing look in some ways.

BUT WAIT, THERES MORE!

I am also going to throw in this image showing you how lovely the color, bokeh, AND detail are with this lens!

Another straight from camera RAW conversion. M9/F2.5 and ISO 160. Click image for 1800 Pixel wide version or HERE for the full size file.

So what do you think? In my opinion (and I have shot with quite a bit of Leica glass) this lens delivers in all areas. Bokeh, color and sharpness/detail are all very good. If you are a regular to this site then you know how I shoot 99% of the time. WIDE OPEN! Yes, one of the reasons I love Leica so much is that their lenses are “no compromise” lenses. This means you can shoot wide open, stopped down…doesnt matter. You will get delicious contrast, sublime color and pleasant bokeh at all apetures (unless you are at F11, then no bokeh). As stated above, the lens does lose some of that biting sharp detail as you get away from the center of the frame (when wide open) but this is also what gives it the look it has. It’s NOT a perfect ASPHERICAL lens.

Leica M9 with 35 Summarit at F2.5 – Processed in Photoshop CS4 – Click image for larger version

SO, IS THIS LENS GOOD ENOUGH FOR MY M9?

ABSO-FRIKKEN-LUTEY! This lens is a gem. It’s the sleeper in the Leica lineup and also a bonafide bargain. This 35 will do whatever you ask of it. No, it may not be the best for low light and no, it will not give you creamy bokeh like the Summilux, BUT it is a fraction of the price of those other lenses, and it’s also smaller! If money is tight, or even if it is not then I can easily recommend the 35 Summarit. On the M9 it’s superb, and by the way I have also made it mine! After buying, selling, and trading so many lenses during my 3 month search for a 3 lens kit that I could keep without feeling too bad about the money, I have decided that the 35 Summarit will be my 35mm of choice for my M9. I also bought the hood which is the metal screw in type like the new 21 and 24 summilux’s. It’s just quite a bit smaller than the wide LUX monster hoods.

This lens will be the perfect choice for me when I go out and shoot for my “Rural Landscape” series of broken down homes, buildings and cars. Even at F2.5 it delivers the detail I need for this project. Here are a couple of processed images that I shot with this lens on the M9. Click any image for an 1800 Pixel wide version! All were shot at F2.5.

Here is an old abandoned house that I shot with the M9 and 35. This was converted from RAW and I did some selective sharpening and dodge/burn in CS4.

Another old abandoned house that is just sitting and rotting away. F2.5 with the little summarit. The M9/summarit combo is perfect for these types of images.

This is a new house I found this week while shooting the 35. Again, F2.5 on the M9. Any vignetting you see was added.

As I walked through a VERY old cemetery I saw this odd scene which appeared to be several headstones placed in a pile. Wide open at 2.5.

Yet another old house that I thought was abandoned. I was told by a neighbor that there was an 86 year old man who lives in this house and has for 40 years.

This lens has all of the qualities you could ask for in a Leica lens. Build, size, and image quality are up there with the rest of the Leica lenses, just in its own kind of “flavor” and i must admit, it is a flavor I really like. If you want speed, buy the 35 ummilux. If you want clinical perfection, buy the 35 Summicron. If you want to save some cash and have an all around super performing lens then buy the 35 Summarit. You can’t go wrong with this one. It’s a gem, and a keeper. If you feel the need for absolute perfection and more speed then the 35 Summicron is what you are after (see my review here) but expect to shell out $2995 for that one. OK! On to my Pro’s and Con’s list of the Leica 35 Summarit!

PROS AND CONS OF THE LEICA 35 SUMMARIT LENS

PRO’S:

  • It is small, light and well made.
  • The image quality is what you expect from Leica. Superb.
  • It’s semi fast at 2.5, just a bit faster than a 2.8.
  • Bokeh is minimal, but nice.
  • A perfect match for the M9 and great as a starter lens.
  • One of the least expensive Leica lenses.
  • Super color when you have good light.

CONS:

  • Only comes with a fabric pouch, no leather case.
  • Hood is a $139 accessory. Yep, $139 for a metal screw in hood and cap. It’s nice but not $139 nice.
  • Lens hood easily screws off when trying to unmount the lens. It does not lock in to place.
  • Ever so slightly vignettes at 2.5 but no one would notice it.
  • Not as solidly made as a 35 Summilux.
  • Some slight softness in the corners when wide open, but not enough to bother me.
  • Some CA in high contrast situations but this is more or less due to the digital sensor “bloom” and all lenses do it on the M9/M9 in certain situations.
  • Finally, has some slight barrel distortion. You can see this when shooting straight lines. The $4500 Summilux also has this, so not a major issue.


So there you go! I hope you have enjoyed this review as I had fun shooting for it and writing it. If you want to buy this lens for your M, you can get it at B&H Photo HERE, or you can go to Amazon and pick one up HERE ! Doing so will help me continue with this site!

My lens came from my friend Ken Hansen and he has the lens in stock at all times. You can e-mail him here.

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Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you!

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Jan 222010
 

Last year I started a photo project where I wanted to search for and photograph abandoned buildings and homes. I find these locations very interesting and decided that I wanted to seek out and photograph these locations so I could document them while they were still standing. My idea was to find 10-15 choice locations and re-visit them every year to see if they were still there, torn down, or replaced. Of course I would photograph them every year so I could see the differences.

I was out and about yesterday and decided to re-visit a few of those locations where I shot last year. The top image was from March of 2009 with my Leica M8 and 28 Elmarit at F4. It was titled “Left Behind” as I imagined that this may have been another casualty of the housing crisis. When I took the image last year I remembered thinking that this house must have been pretty nice at one time. I imagined nice landscaping with kids in the front yard playing and even a dog running around chasing squirrels. Sadly, the house was just left to sit and rot and I wish I knew the real story as to why that happened.

The bottom image was from yesterday, Jan 22nd 2010 with my Leica M9 and 35 Summarit at 2.5. It was cold, grey and raining and you can tell from looking at the image. Isn’t it amazing what almost a year will do to an abandoned house? The roof has deteriorated, the doors have completely fallen off and there have been quite a few areas with deterioration. The front door is wide open now but I did not have the guts to go inside as it did not look too safe.  I do plan on going back to this location every year so I will re-visit again in 2011. This is a part of my ongoing “rural landscape” five year project. Enjoy!

Jan 072010
 

IMG_2675

Was out today in the bitter cold and stopped by my Mother’s house to see how she was doing. I had my M9 with one of Leicas most affordable lenses, the 35 Summarit 2.5 lens attached. This little lens may not be as fast as a 35 Summilux, or as perfect as a 35 Summicron but it has some special qualities and I have seen them in the few shots I snapped today with it. It is as sharp as you could want wide open and the size is tiny. With it’s metal screw in hood (like the 24 summilux style) it makes for a perfect all around lens for the M9 if cost is a concern. About $1600 this is the lowest priced NEW 35 you can get from Leica for your M. From what I have seen it is well worth it. I’ll have a review in a few weeks. BTW, I got this one from Ken Hansen.

My wife was with me today and she had her Olympus E-P2 with the new Panasonic 20 1.7 attached so I took a shot of my Mother with each one just to see how the $399 Panny would look next to the Leica. Wow, the Panny is a great lens for the money as well. For $400 you get a fast 1.7 20mm which translates to a 40mm on the Micro 4/3 cameras. So, between a 35 and 50 the 40 focal length is quite useful as an everyday lens. I think this lens will stay on her E-P2 as a lens cap. I will also have a review of this lens in a few weeks! I bought the Panasonic and it came from B&H Photo.

The photos? Oh yea, here they are. First the Leica M9/35 Summarit shot wide open at 2.5, NO PP: Continue reading »

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