Feb 072014
 

The Leica M 240 at Night

by Ivan Makarov

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to visit New York City for a few days, focusing only on photography. Well, I focused on the food too, as it’s kind of legendary. Because I live on the West Coast, near San Francisco, NYC was an eye-opening experience in many ways, as I discovered a new culture, new kinds of architecture, and a new big city I heard so much about but never visited before with my camera.

I also used the visit as a chance to keep learning my new Leica M, which I acquired last summer before the birth of our son Yuri who’s doing great, by the way and is sleeping in my arms as I type this.

Up to this point, I’ve been using Leica mostly during day light, and sometimes indoors for family snaps around the house. It’s an amazing camera in those situations. When I was choosing between getting a new Leica M or a used M9, one of the deciding factors that swayed me towards getting the M was the high ISO performance, which Leica delivered with the improved sensor. I knew that some of the most important family photographs I would capture with this new camera would be indoors, or in darker conditions and having the ability to shoot clean images using ISO1600 or ISO3200 was worth paying extra money, at least for me.

When doing my research on Leica, I came across a lot of images online that were taken outdoors, but at night, using fast M-mount primes. There was something different about those images compared to what I’m used to seeing from SLRs in similar conditions. The colors looked more natural and vibrant. The contrast was beautiful. The sharpness was always top-notch.

As I thought about what to shoot in New York, I thought I’d spend some time in the evenings after dinner testing how Leica performs in those night conditions, using my Leica M, and Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH lens. I did have 50mm f/1.4 Summilux on me as well, but I spent most the trip shooting with the 35mm lens, as I just bought it, and also found it more suitable for street photography.

So how did Leica perform in those night conditions? In short, I was very happy with the results.

My goal was to capture the lights of New York as my eye saw them. The beauty of New York City at night is that it’s full of colors, lights, and contrasts, no matter where I look. Leica proved to be a very good companion in recording those scenes – just how I saw them, or even more beautiful when coupled with the rich Leica bokeh.

I shot these images with the wide open aperture, and using ISO1600. They were shot at China Town and Times Square – two locations that are excellent for night street photography.

The one downside was that the files still came out somewhat on the warm side, which Leica M is now known for. I had to pull down the saturation in reds and oranges a bit during post processing to restore skin tones to their more natural color. I’m used to doing it now. The recent firmware upgrade fixed those issues somewhat, as you noted in your article, but it did not fix it completely.

As a result of this trip and my new experience of shooting at night, I am now incorporating night street photography in all my photo related travels, especially when it’s a city that offers plenty of life after it gets dark.

My site – http://www.ivanmakarov.com/

NY #28

NY #25

NY #27

NY #26

NY #36

NY #35

NY #34

NY #37

NY #33

 

Jan 032014
 
Puerto Rico, India, Family… 2013 & the Leica M240
By Bob Boyd

Hey Steve,

2013 was a very busy year for me. Lots of work. Lots of travel. We took a family trip to beautiful Puerto Rico in July (our first ever outside the states as a family) and then I had the opportunity to return to India this past fall to document some mission work in the field. I’ve shot both an M and an SLR for the last 5 years but for personal work, it’s almost always the M. I made the decision to jump to the M240 early – mainly because of the ISO limitations of the M9 – and was fortunate enough to get an early copy last spring through my longtime Leica dealer, Ken Hansen.

I thought I would share some of my favorite images from this past year with a brief description.

Here’s to a great 2014 for you and your site!

All the best,

Bob Boyd

www.bobboyd.net

A bay near El Morro, Puerto Rico. (Zeiss 21mm f/2.8)

Bay near El Morro, Puerto Rico

-

Paths… (Left) a path of doorways at Fort El Morro and (right) Two brothers walk along the beach at sunset in, Puerto Rico. (50mm Lux ASPH)

Paths...

-

Coast Guard boat at sunrise near the ferry for Culebra, Puerto Rico. (35mm Lux ASPH)

Coast Guard at sunrise

-

Ocean play at sunset… Isle of Culebra, Puerto Rico (50mm Lux ASPH)

Ocean play at sunset...

-

Graffitied Tank… The kids inspect an old rusted out tank on the beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico. (35mm Lux ASPH)

Graffitied tank

-

Room with a View… Windows of a watchtower open to a beautiful scenic view in the Puerto Rican rainforest of El Yunque.  (Zeiss 21mm f/2.8)

7 2013-07-11 L1002032

-

Fire in the sky… A firey sunset illuminates the post-rain mist on the mountainsides in Puerto Rico. (50mm Lux ASPH)

8 2013-07-13 L1002738

-

Amritsar, India… A Sikh woman bows in the middle of tourists at the entrance of Harmandir Sahib – the “Golden Temple”. (50mm Lux ASPH)

9 2013-09-22 L1004024

-

A Sikh man and his bike outside Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. (50mm Lux ASPH)

A Sikh man and his bike outside Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.

-

A Sikh man in Amritsar, India (right) and a Christian woman in Punjab, India (left). (50mm Lux ASPH (l), 90mm Summarit/ISO6400 (r)

Common Differences...

-

Indian Corridors… (Left) Golden sunset light pours into a market area in Amritsar, India. (Right) A mother walks her children to the village school bus stop.

(50mm Lux ASPH (l), 90mm Summarit (r))

Indian Corridors...

-

A remote village area. Punjab, India (35mm Lux ASPH)

A remote village area. Punjab, India

-

Two young boys playing in a village in Punjab, India.
(50mm Lux ASPH)

 14 2013-09-23 L1004304

-

An elderly man in a remote village in Pujab, India. (50mm Lux ASPH)

An elderly man in a remote village in Pujab, India.
-
Brick Factory A worker hauls new bricks at a brick factory in Punjab, India. (21mm Lux ASPH)

A worker hauls new bricks at a brick factory in Punjab, India.

-

Children playing with tire inner tubes along a dirt street in Punjab, India. (35mm Lux ASPH)

Children playing with tire inner tubes along a dirt street in Punjab, India.

-

A Mother’s love and pride on display as she holds her child. Punjab, India (21mm Lux ASPH)

Mother and child. Punjab, India

-

Two women rest on cots at a home in Punjab, India. (21mm Lux ASPH)

Two women rest on cots at a home in Punjab, India.

-

Village street scene. Punjab, India (35mm Lux ASPH)

Village street scene. Punjab, India

-

A woman prepares an evening meal in a small hut. Punjab, India (21mm Lux ASPH)

A woman prepares an evening meal in a small hut. Punjab, India

-

Market traffic… Punjab, India (21mm Lux ASPH)

Market traffic.  Punjab, India

-

I’ll end on one last personal image… My wife visiting her 88 year old grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. (50mm Lux ASPH)

25 20131208 - L1005530

Dec 122013
 

titledide

Why I quit the Leica M bodies for the Sony A7R

By Didier Godme – His Flickr is HERE, his blog is HERE

I started being more serious about photography when buying my first Canon DSLR (20D) a few years back and then upgraded to the 5DMII. After 3 years of good use, my neck started feeling bad (especially with the 35 f1.4) so in 2011, my wife convinced me to cut my arm in order to be able to afford the M9-P…

I am not the type of guy who always buys the latest stuff, but since I’ve had 2 important failures in less than 2 years on the M9-P (wrong exposure + sensor dead), I decided to go for the Sony A7R. By chance it came out just when I had the 2nd failure and Leica lend me another M9-P during the 4-6 months repair time (no joke…). As a consequence, I had the opportunity to benchmark both. The goal of this article is not to say that M bodies are crap in terms of quality because it’s certainly not the case and not everybody had the same (bad) experience as I did.

My idea is simply to list all the great advantages from the Sony A7r over the M9-P which led me to stop using Leica M bodies.

- Weight: 465 vs 600 gr. OK, we’re talking peanuts here, but you can feel it straight away.

- Size: My dream has always been to get the smallest and lightest possible full frame camera. My M9-P was the first answer to that but Sony is now clearly the winner on both even if the difference is small.

- Ergonomic: I had to buy the grip for the M9-P to be able to have a strong control of it. The Sony is just perfect the way it came out from the factory.

- Iso: No need to go in depth on this one…M9 is already 4 years old and technology made loads of progress since then.

Sony A7r with Zeiss 55

sony-a7r-with-zeiss-5

-

Leica M9P with 50 Summilux

leica-m9p-with-summilux-5-

Sony A7r with Zeiss 35 2.8

sony-a7r-with-zeiss-41

-

Leica M9P with 35 Summilux at 2.8

leica-m9p-with-summilux-1

-

Sony A7r with Zeiss 35 at 2.8

sony-a7r-with-zeiss-2

-

Leica M9P with 35 Summilux at 2.8

leica-m9p-with-summilux-2

- Viewfinder: Although I really love the rangefinder type of viewfinder because it’s huge, clear and you can see what’s happening out of the frame, I always scratch my glasses because of the metal on the M9-P. It’s a detail, but now with the Sony A7R, I will not have to change glasses every year or think about wearing lenses each time I want to shoot.

- Framing: When using rangefinders, there is always a little shift between what was in the framelines and what you get. With the Sony A7R, what you see is what you get.

- Screen: There is no possible benchmark between the one from the M9-P and the Sony A7R. The one from the M9-P was already outdated when it came out and the Sony represents the last generation so the advantage is obvious. It’s not on this point I want to argue but on the tillable screen. It’s a simple option but it allows to increase framing possibilities tremendously and get more original pictures.

- Manual Focus: I’ve been using rangefinders for 5 years now (M7-M9-P) and have no trouble focusing manually on rangefinders. When I first read about focus peaking I had no idea what it was (I know…it’s a shame!) but Steve Huff wrote in his review that it was quite easy to focus manually with Leica M lenses on this body (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2013/11/29/the-sony-a7-and-a7r-camera-review-by-steve-huff/). I tested it in the store where I bought it and was convinced in less than 30sec. In opposition to the rangefinder system where you need to use the center of the frame to focus, with focus peaking you can focus everywhere in the frame. The big advantage is that you don’t have to focus and then frame but can do both at the same time.

Sony A7r and 35 Summilux at ISO 6400

sony-a7r-with-summilux-35-f1-7-iso-6400

-

Sony A7r and Zeiss 35 

sony-a7r-with-zeiss-3

-

Leica M9P with 35 Summilux

leica-m9p-with-summilux-3

- Auto Focus: As I said, I am used to manual focus and like to control it. My wife however is not really keen on manual focusing and doesn’t take many pictures because of this. When purchasing the A7R I decided to go as well for the Zeiss 35 F2,8 so that she can use it and shot our baby. She (and I) just love this lens and now can use it on the camera. Just impossible on Leica M bodies…

- Speed: Leica M9-P goes up to 1/4000 sec while the A7R up to 1/8000 sec. Again, a small difference, but quite useful when shooting at 1.4F in daylight!

- Image Quality: Although the CCD sensor from the M9 is quite famous and my people LOVE it, I did some comparisons and find the Sony way more detailed. I also prefer the way colors come out.

- Sensor cleaning: Automatic sensor cleaning on the A7R, not on the M9.

All these reasons convinced me to go 100% for the Sony A7R. I am now waiting to get my M9-P back from repair to sell it straight away. The only thing I am going to miss from my old buddy is its legendary design…

To close the loop, standard warranty on my A7R is 4 YEARS!

Thumbs UP Sony!!!

Didier G.

Sony with Leica Summilux

Sony A7R with Zeiss 35 F2.8 iso 6400 2-

Sony with 35 Zeiss

1

Oct 162013
 

EXCLUSIVE: Sony A7 and A7r images with the Leica M, E-M1 and RX1!

As I stated last night, just yesterday I had a full hands on with the brand spanking new Sony A7 and A7r ! How could I not put a Leica 50 Summilux on the A7r..a 36 Megapixel monster with the latest sensor tech out there?

When I did..let me tell you..what I saw in the EVF was amazingly good. I have not seen any images on my screen yet..but will be in about a week or so when I go to Nashville, TN for a week to test out these new cameras. I CAN NOT WAIT and my PRE-ORDER IS IN for the A7R, Battery Grip and 35 2.8 and 55 1.8.

Hope that the quality stands up when viewed on my computer :) Either way, I will let you know soon.

Some have been asking me questions about the shutter. Yes it is loud and clunky. Does not bother me but for those who want a quiet shutter it may be an issue. Also, this camera DOES NOT have the NEX Menu System and no, you can not switch between NEX and Alpha menus. There was an Australian video posted by Sony misrepresenting this fact.

There is a simple one page graphical menu where each choice takes you to the main menu, which is Alpha based. Same menu as RX1, A99, etc. You will NOT see or be able to access a NEX menu. Also, this camera is not a NEX or CyberShot camera, it is an Alpha camera. Some have been confused thinking it is a NEX, it is not and from what I was told, all future cameras will now be “A” cameras and the NEX Menu is now history.

So hope  that clears it up! Again, I will be posting live updates at the end of the month all week-long with image samples, video samples, Leica lens samples, and much more.

For now, how about some new images?

Take a look at the images below to see the camera in my hands and with the Leica lens attached as well as sitting next to a Leica M and Olympus E-M1 for size reference.

All I would need is the A7r and a 50 Lux. I would be happy with this.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

-

Hard to see here but the D800 was MUCH larger and much HEAVIER than the tiny A7r. The A7r has the Zeiss 24-70 attached. 

d800anda7

-

Two tech marvels:  E-M1 next to the A 7r..they look like cousins. I will own both. 

emaanda7r

-

The Leica M and Sony A7r

leicaanda7

-

Three full frame and all AMAZING cameras..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

-

One more of a sweet configuration for the A7r. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To those wanting to buy the A7r, the 50 Lux should be pretty magical with it. You can buy the camera or the lens at the pre-order links below!

Buy the Sony A7r body and all new Sony at B&H Photo

Buy the Sony A7r body at Amazon

Buy the Leica 50 Summilux through Ken Hansen ([email protected], Pro Shop, PopFlash or B&H Photo.

FULL list of pre-order links to ALL things Sony A7 and A7r!

BTW, I will be renting some Leica glass to test with the A7r in a couple of weeks. To all Leica users, what would be the top 3-4 lenses you would want to see tested and shot on the new Sony A7 and A7r? Let me know in the comments!

Sep 202013
 

SAMSUNG CSC

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

SAMSUNG CSC

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.

summliuxcolor1

-

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. 

summaritcolor1

-

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.

nikkorcolor1

-

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!

summaritbw

-

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

summiluxf2

Summarit 1.5

SAMSUNG CSC

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.

gumwallkid

summ

toddman

The Nikkor 5cm 1.4 LTM

SAMSUNG CSC

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

L1000166

L1002204

L1002208

L1002211

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?

Jul 182013
 

Just for fun! Which one is which? POLL!

ANSWER: After waiting ALL day to let you guys mull it over, the answer is… The TOP image was taken with the Leica 50 Summilux. The Bottom with the Nokton. The easiest way to tell them apart is by the slightly rougher Bokeh of the Nokton. The Summilux is smoother in the out of focus areas but the Nokton is $3100 cheaper. So all depends on if you want the absolute best or the next best thing :) 

So which one is which? Decided to have some fun today before posting anything super serious :) We all know how wonderful Leica glass is, but it is so damn expensive and hard to justify for many of us. I always get asked “what lens is comparable to the 50 Summiux ASPH, but for less money”?

Well, these days I say without hesitation, the Voigtlander 50 Nokton 1.5 VM. Yep, the new Leica M mount 50 Nokton is GORGEOUS and is 85-90% of the Leica. Where it falls short is with some slight distortion when shooting straight lines up close. Other than that it is sharp, has pleasant Bokeh, great color and at a casual glance, very hard to spot the difference between it and the $4000 Leica. The Nokton can be had for $899 in black and $1099 in chrome. The Leica is $3995. 

So, which is which? Both were shot wide open at 1.4 and 1.5 on the Leica M 240 casually during one of the Palouse workshop lunches.

You can see my Nokton review HERE.

BOTH are direct from camera, shot RAW, no modifications whatsoever.

After you look, and click to see them larger vote in the poll below!

50comp

ANSWER: After waiting ALL day to let you guys mull it over, the answer is… The TOP image was taken with the Leica 50 Summilux. The Bottom with the Nokton. The easiest way to tell them apart is by the slightly rougher Bokeh of the Nokton. The Summilux is smoother in the out of focus areas but the Nokton is $3100 cheaper. So all depends on if you want the absolute best or the next best thing :) 

Apr 042013
 

Two new videos…Leica M 50′s and an M 240 Video with the Noctilux

Just realized I have not posted these here though they have been on my youtube channel for a week or two. The 1st one is an overview of three mega Leica lenses. The 50 cron APO, the 50 Lux ASPH and the 50 Noctilux ASPH. The 2nd video is a short little video I shot with the 50 Noctilux ASPH to show the rolling shutter effect that is very noticeable when shooting 50mm. It was taken with the Noctilux wide open and with the M 240 in B&W mode.

Enjoy!

Feb 232013
 

Weekend Tidbits. Canon EOS-M, RX1 lens rated and new Leather straps…

Hello to all and happy Saturday! I’m feeling a but better today after going through the worst flu of my life for the past 6 days straight. I have had so much bed rest during these past 6 days I am starting to go stir crazy! I am now feeling a bit better I NEED to get out of the house and see some sunshine. Since I have not done too much work over the past week I want to get caught up and post some things I will be talking about and reviewing soon.

DSC02155

Canon EOS-M – Dud? 

I have had a Canon EOS-M here for about 5 days but did not even take a serious look at it until today. I fired off some test snaps with the included 22mm f/2 pancake and was all set to write the shortest EOS-M review ever (not good). One reason why is that the AF on this guy is turtle slow and makes the Fuji X cameras appear to be speed demons. The EOS-M is also very small and overly simplified to the point where it is basically a point and shoot with an APS-C sensor. There are no real dials or enthusiast buttons and I am puzzled as to why Canon even released this.

They only have two lenses for it, the 22 and a 18-55 kit quality zoom. That is it. For $799 with the 22mm (which will almost give you a 35mm equivalent due to its APS-C sensor) and no EVF, VF or real controls, I would buy a NEX-6, NIkon V1, Olympus OM-D or even a Fuji X-E1 over the Canon EOS-M. I just do not get who it is for but have a feeling hardcore Canon fans are the ones who are buying it because it is NOT a fun camera to use due to the slow AF, lack of VF, and the fact that it feels like a small P&S. It does not really inspire me in any way. You figure Canon would have been able to release something to kick all of the others to the curb in the mirrorless world but nope. Not even close.

I will still shoot with it over the next week though and even will be trying out a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH on it to see how much fun it is with manual quality glass. To me, the 50 Lux ASPH is the best Leica lens ever. I’ve always been stuck between the 35 Lux and 50 Lux but the 50 is THE ultimate Leica lens, period. My best shots over the years have come from this lens and I plan on making this my exclusive lens with the new Leica M.  Not sure how it will do on the EOS-M though, but I will see soon enough :) I enjoyed using it on my OM-D a while back and it delivered that “lux” magic even with the smaller OM-D sensor. It is a lifetime lens and no longer has year-long waits, in fact Leica dealers should have a few in stock right now and I know for a 100% fact that Ken Hansen has a LOAD of them right now.

DSC02157

Still, I would never buy the EOS-M to shoot Leica glass on anyway as Leica glass works so well on the Sony NEX, Fuji X or Olympus OM-D (and best on the Leica M bodies) due to them having actual viewfinders. So first impression of the EOS-M without any shooting time is a big disappointment. I can tell the IQ is good but it does nothing that other APS-C sensors can not do but give you those Canon colors.

-

The Sony RX1 Ziess lens tested by DXO..and it’s a beauty!

rx1

So DXO tested the Sony RX1 Zeiss 35mm Lens and boy did they REALLY RAVE ABOUT IT. This will give you an idea on why the RX1 is priced as it is..THE LENS  is the heart of the system and tested better than the stand alone $1800 Zeiss 35 1.4…

“Its optical performance is outstanding, and particularly noteworthy for its consistent sharpness and homogenous imaging across the frame. With excellent image quality at maximum aperture becoming outstanding at f/2.8 and on, the Zeiss Sonnar T* 2/35 is likely to become a classic, against which all others are judged. Of course the lens can only be obtained with the purchase of the RX1, a camera that is not entirely without its own quirks and shortcomings. In spite of this, if you have the money to invest, then close to perfect imagery is assured.”

 “With a high overall DxOMark score of 33, the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* is a superb performer optically. That score puts it comfortably ahead of the $1,850 manual focus Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1.4/35 (35mm f/1.4) on a Nikon D3X, which achieved a DxOMark score of 30.””

So there ya go. This Zeiss lens is “likely to become a classic, against which all others are judged” – Same thing I thought from the get go without needing to do any measurements. The RX1 is a beast.

-

Hand made Leather straps – Tap and Dye

DSC02149

A few weeks ago I received some straps from a company called “Tap & Dye” who told me their straps are hand made in the good old USA (New York) and I have to say they are very nice quality straps. With so many strap manufacturers out there today it is not hard to find a great strap but sometimes it can be tricky to find one that really gives you what you are looking for when it comes to comfort, usability, security, length, etc. I have seen some Leather straps selling for $200+ but Tap & Dye straps come in under $70 which makes them a good buy for a strap that will last you a lifetime.

These straps will get soft over time and wear in to your own body but when you first get them they will have some stiffness going on.

You can order in any size from 38″ to 48″ and they also sell hand straps using the same quality leather.

straptap

Each strap is made from Full Grain,Cowhide leather. All edges will be left unfinished and distressed for a vintage antique look.

Each strap features durable, high quality antique nickel plated solid brass rivets.

To see all of the offerings from Tap & Dye you can click on over to their site HERE.

Feb 112013
 

_1360333948

ONE Leica Monochrom in stock, tons of Leica lenses in stock and an LHSA Hammertone!

Just a FYI for anyone looking for a Monochrom, Leica lenses, A rare MP or a great deal on a Leica M-E :) All from site sponsors, meaning..the best in the USA for Leica :)

Hello everyone! I know these Leica Monochrom’s have been few and far between but the Pro Shop has ONE in stock and if you want it you must call them at 561-253-2606. I expect it to sell quickly.

Also, Ken Hansen shot me an email saying he has just about EVERY single Leica lens in stock and LOADS of silver 50 Summilux ASPH. You know, the lens that used to be impossible to find. He has 35 Lux’s, 75′s, 90′s, etc. he has them all even Noctilux. So give him an e-mail if you are looking for a Leica lens at [email protected]

Dale Photo has a used LHSA Leica MP Hammertone and leicavit set HERE for all of those looking for a killer film setup. This one is a bit rare.

PopFlash has loads of Leica as well including a Leica M-E for $4577 with less than 100 shots taken. As new. 

Dec 272012
 

My Leica love and Pursuit by Nilton Junior

Hi guys! My name is Nilton (speak it as Newton) and I would like to share with you a little about my Leica love and pursuit.

I can say that the very begging is when I was about 9 or 10 years old and my beloved Mom had a small eyeglasses store, I was there all time listening about dioptric grads, types of glasses, aberrations, and others optical terms, but the most I can remember was about good glasses from Carls Zeiss that she no so often used to sell. It was fantastic; if I remember right it was the most exotic glass you could buy for your frame in that time. Here it is, my very first memories about good German optics.

Panasonic GX1 + Canon FD 55mm 1.2f @ 1.4f – ISO 800 – 1/400

P1070116

When I was about 17 years old I realized I really loved Physics, Mechanical Physics, but pretty much Optic Physics as well, so I went to engineering school. There I had my second touch with German optics products as I performed a 2 year government paid research about laser emission from neodymium glass at about ultra violet spectrum, almost not visible light. So what equipment did I use to make all that measurements of emission, reflection and absorption? Almost all very high precision equipment was from Leica or Zeiss. They are the most well named brands between scientists tools and an optical lab, without them is legless, or so.

Well, but what does all of that geek stuff have to do about photography? Probably nothing but making a big story short, when little small things from the past creates standards and marks at our minds and influence ours decisions about every thing in life, this has done  a lot for my photography style, and I can tell it is just the beginning.

Fujifilm X100 from my wife J @ 2.0f – ISO 3200 – 1/300

DSCF0254

In 2007 I was about to make my first trip for Europe, and decided to buy a decent camera. I knew nothing about photography, but remember that the seed was planted, so I bought a Canon G9! Yes… I know, WTF?! Actually, the only preference I had that time that remains in me today is, I want a damn small but powerful camera with me. Never thought about using an SLR.

So after that trip I realized that the G9 didn’t achieve the image quality I wanted. I mean, it is a pretty good camera, but autofocus, high ISO and available light photography are not the highs from it. I needed to move on.

Panasonic GX1 + Olympus 12mm 2.0 @ 2.0f – ISO 160 – 1/3200

P1050715

So talking about photography with my best friend (this damn lucky boy today works at Playboy Magazine) he told me that a certain company was making partnership with Leica glass. Yes, something inside my head instantly lighted up and it all made sense. I WANT A LEICA. That time I didn´t know Leica and Zeiss made photographic products, I was a lab geek, remember?

Panasonic GX1 + Summilux 25mm @ 1.4f – ISO 160 – 1/1300

P1060422

So I started to research the most I could about Leica glass and the company making the trade with them. So I discovered Panasonic. Yes. My life brought me here, to Panasonic MFT cameras line up! I know that apparently Steve likes Olympus more but I never tried Olympus, but man, they don´t have the Leica partnership, J. I bought the GF1 and that was passion at first click and of course bought a summilux 25mm too.

That time I knew little about M cameras, just knew they were (and are) insanely expensive and that I would never, ever, ever buy one. I was so happy with my Panasonic/Summilux combo, it is a little taste and the closest I could get from a real Leica. From then to now I changed my GF1 for a GX1 and don’t regret that decision. It is very superior with faster autofocus and better high ISO capabilities. I’ve recently started trying third-party lenses with adaptor.

The major brand I use for my MFT camera is Canon FD. They are cheap and you can get great results. I just love my Canon FD 55mm 1.2f.

Panasonic GX1 + Canon FD 100-200mm 5.6 @ 16f – ISO 160 – 1/500

P1040972

But, what about Leica?! Is it in that tinny dark area from my heart? Forgotten? NEVER!  After discovering, about one and half-year ago, Steve’s Site, I made a decision, I will buy my Leica M with a summilux 50, so I started saving. Yes, I’m on budget and hope I can get my hands over the new Leica M next year!

PS.: Please, I hope my English isn’t that bad, it is not my native language.

Best regards guys!

Nilton Junior

www.photon-x.com.br

Nov 192012
 

Lessons Learned – Using Classic Lenses on the Leica M Monochrom

By Ashwin Rao – See his blog HERE or his Facebook Page HERE

As a caveat, the article that I am presenting below is entirely subjective, and my opinions are subject to change. My thoughts represent my current state of thinking. I have found that the Leica M Monochrom is a flexible tool capable of pushing the photographer in new and different ways. It happens to be that the MM has pushed me in the direction discussed below, as of 11/2012, and we’ll see where the journey takes me in the months and years to come….

Hi fellow photographers, gearheads, and friends, today I am writing the first of my “lessons learned” articles regarding the use and function of the Leica M Monochrom (MM). The MM is unlike any camera that I have used in my time behind the viewfinder. Sure, one can approach its use similarly to how he or she would use a M9. In practical use, it’s a rangefinder and nothing more. However, shooting in black and white may necessitate a change in approaching the subject of the photo. For me, this has meant focusing on light and dark, highlight and contrast, and composition over color.

Of equal importance is the difference in the files produced by the camera, when compared to the M9 or any other camera currently in production. As I processed my first set of images, shot entirely with modern aspherical lenses on the MM, I started to notice a few “issues” with my files As many have discussed, images looked flat and grey, yet with occasionally overexposed highlights. To compensate for loss of highlight detail, I decided to under-expose by 1/3 to 2/3 stops. In some instances, using this method with modern glass, shadows were so deep that it became more difficult to recover details in the underexposed portions of the frame.

One other issue some images had a decidedly “digital” look to them. A fair number of commenters made mention that the files had a look that didn’t appear film-like. This is no fault of the MM, which after all is a digital camera, but rather with our expectation that files coming directly from the camera should look entirely “film-like” (whatever that means….there are many types of film)…What could be behind this? After all, the Leica M system is replete with some of the best glass ever made, capable of fantastic clarity and tonal rendition. The MM’s sensor is capable of resolving incredible detail, in some cases more than presently capable of the lenses in Leica’s collection. Shouldn’t fantastic glass coupled with a fantastic sensor produce…well…fantastic results? I haven’t always found this to be the case, within the confines of my own limitations as a photographer….let me explain why I think this (IMHO, as always).

Leica MM with 90 mm f/2 Summicron v2

QUANDRY # 1- Lens choice: Modern vs Classic.

When shooting with modern lenses, as I did in the MM-NYC article that Steve posted a few months back, I only used aspheric lenses, specifically the 35 mm Summilux FLE and 50 mm Summilux Asph lenses. On looking at these files again today, I find that the coupling of modern lenses with the MM creates files that are bursting with clarity and contrast. To me, it may be that the files offer too much clarity and contrast for my brand of black and white photography. For those willing to experiment with modern glass on the MM’s sensor, they may well be allowed to explore territory that has yet to be explored in BW photography. So when some offer criticism that MM files have an overly digital look, I’d respond that MM files have a unique look as offered by the combination of sensor and lens. The creative possibilities of exploring these combinations is both exciting and daunting, but offers up a type of black and white imagery that we may not be used to. Just as HDR images became popular and controversial several years back, the MM files offer something different from bread-and-butter CMOS and CCD sensor rendering. Images shot via the MM when using modern glass seem to have a “hyper-real”, almost surreal look to them. This is not a familiar look to many of us, and thus invites criticism or concern in some instances. Some of us, such as Kristian Dowling, have assumed this challenge, and are making the MM sing with modern glass. I went in a different direction….

Leica MM with 90 mm f/2 Summicron v2

I debated whether or not to stick with the “MM-Modern look”, as I have taken to calling it, and decided to put it on hold. I am not sure that I am quite yet ready to delve into that look without being met with significant challenge and criticism. Rather, I purchased the MM to progress as a black and white photographer, along the lines of the images that I have explored from the film era. With this in mind, I began to explore the possibility of how the MM behaves with vintage lenses from prior eras.

Over the past few months, I dusted the cobwebs off some of my classic lenses,that haven’t gotten much use in recent times. In particular, I have extensively used the Leica 50 mm f/2 version II Summicron, also dubbed the “Rigid Summicron”, as it was the first Summicron lens to have no collapsible elements. This lens was very popular in the late 1950’s through mid-1960’s, and it was highly regarded for its clarity (for the era), tonal rendition, and smooth out-of-focus rendition (i.e. bokeh). To this, I added a 90 mm f/2 Summicron II (E 49 filter thread, collapsible hood) which was manufactured in 1970. I also pulled out my old Leica Tele-Elmar 135 mm f/4, which I reviewed here several years back, and picked up a 35 mm f/2.5 Summarit, which to my eyes has a smoother tonal rendition than its aspherical cousins (35 FLE and 35 cron asph) and stands nicely side-by-side with older glass. Needless to say, I have been very pleased and excited with the results of these lenses on the MM.

Leica MM with 90 mm f/2 Summicron v2

While modern glass can be nearly jarring on the MM, due to lens sharpness and abrupt focus-fall off coupled with the MM’s resolving capabilities, these vintage lenses provide a different, less-clinical signature, which to my eyes, provides a dare-I-say “more pleasant” look…Here again, is where I feel that I am being entirely subjective. To my eyes, at the very least, vintage Leica lenses do very well with the MM. While they resolve slightly less detail than their modern counterparts, their lower contrast and more gentle focus fall off seems to allow and gentler tonal rendition and better preservation of shadow and highlight details. Further, color is taken out of the equation, and while many old lenses don’t always render color accurately, they tend to offer a very appealing greyscale rendition. I feel that the MM’s greyscale capacities take great advantage of lenses with lower macrocontrast. In general, I find that I am able to achieve a more “film-like” black and white look, at least one that more closely represents what’s developed in my thoughts as to how a BW image should look.

In particular, I was stunned by the performance of 2 lenses on the Leica MM: the Rigid 50 mm Summicron and the 90 mm Summicron II. Let me talk a bit more about these lenses

 

Leica MM/50 mm f/2 Rigid Summicron

 At this time, the 50 mm f/2 Rigid Summicron wins my award for “Best overall lens for the Leica M Monochrom”. I know that this is a very bold (and entirely subjective) statement to make, but I have my reasons. The Rigid ‘Cron was one of the best lenses, if not the best lens, in its era, combining high resolution with fantastic performance from wide open through f/11. It’s bitingly sharp if stopped down to f/4 and fully acceptable when shot wide open. Out-of-focus rendition is beautifully classic, and it has a tad of that “Leica glow” thanks to some of its aberrations, none of which goes overboard. If you are willing to live with a minimal focus distance of 1 meter, and if you can find one in good to excellent optical condition, you should buy one in a heartbeat. It’s simply a no-brainer, given that this lens is one of the most affordable 50 mm Summicron lenses on today’s market can be had for 1/10 of the price of the current 50 mm f/2 APO-Summicron.

 

Leica MM/50 mm f/2 Rigid Summicron

The 90 mm f/2 Summicron II has long been regarded as a fantastic performer for portraiture and people photography. It was first released in the 1960’s, and it is one of the only Leica M lenses with a built in tripod mount. It’s a big beast of a lens, though it’s not terribly heavy. It has a telescoping hood, which is a nice feature. But it’s nicest feature is its AMAZING rendering. This lens has become my “go to” portrait lens on the Leica MM, supplanting the 75 mm an 90 mm APO-Summicron lenses. I find the focus fall off of the version II 90 ‘Cron to be beautiful and the lens does an amazing job with OOF rendition and preservation of highlights. It’s one of Walter Mandler’s designs, and it shoes. In many ways, I am reminded of the Leica 75 mm f/1.4 Summilux when viewing images taken with this lens. However, it’s a much more economic offering than the 75 ‘lux, whose prices have entered the stratosphere in recent years. The 90 Summicron II wins 2 awards for me:

1. Best portrait lens on the Leica M Monochrom

2. Most underappreciated lens for Leica M (previous award had gone to the 135 Tele-Elmar)

If you are willing to put up with the 90 Summicron II’s size, which is its only drawback, you’ll be greatly rewarded, particularly if you use a Leica M Monochrom. It has that Leica Magic!!!

 

Leica MM with 90 mm f/2 Summicron v2

Finally, I wanted to put in a brief word on the Leica Summarit 35 mm f/2.5 lens on the MM. As you know, I think very highly of the diminutive Summarit, finding it to have the most pleasant bokeh of any of Leica’s lenses. In some ways, I’d call the 35 mm Summarit to be the “King of Smooth”…it’s very well controlled, renders sharply, and provides and image with moderate contrast and smooth tonal transitions.

 

Leica MM with Leica Summarit 35 mm f/2.5

In summary, at this time, I find that vintage lenses have a very appealing look on the MM’ sensor, and one can re-discover many old lenses using this camera. This does not, in any way, invalidate the use of modern glass on the MM. I simply feel that these lenses offer 2 different sets of solutions for the black and white shooter. The choice ultimately is upon the photographer to determine what better suits him or her.

 

QUANDRY # 2 – Greyscale

When first acquiring the Monochrom, I became enamored with the details and tonal magnitude of MM files. There is a wealth of detail in those greys, and I first attempted to capture and present those greys in a meaningful way. What resulted were files that had a lot of “grey”, which, on some monitors, projects out as flat or washed out. On my NEC High Gamut 27 inch display and on high quality archival prints, the images do have quite a bit of depth in those greys. Yet, there was a certain “pop” that may be missing in having images rendered with whiter whites and darker darks, so to speak, or at least a sharper fall off between darks and whites. In some cases, it actually is much easier to take an M9, convert the file to BW, and obtain a fantastic, more readily approachable image. Why then even bother with the MM?

Well, there are a few reasons, actually, for those who are willing to be patient and make adjustments in post processing. Buried in all of those greys is a wealth of information that allows MM files to be pushed and pulled in many different directions, without a dramatic loss in image fidelity. In other words, by processing carefully, one can adjust the look of their MM images so that they don’t look so…grey.

Leica MM with Canon 50 mm f/1.4 LTM (“Japanese Summilux”)

 

Leica MM with Konica Hexanon 60 mm f/1.2 LTM

Once again, you may ask, “Why bother? My M9 does it well and does it easier…” I would suggest that for the dedicated BW shooter or the photographer interested in getting different looks for their BW imagery, the Leica MM is unparalleled in its ability to produce files capable of being manipulated to achieve many looks in BW without loss of image fidelity. I am a Lightroom user, and I find that using the “Black” and “White” sliders, coupled with the “Shadow” and “Highlight” sliders (available in LR4 and beyond), followed by a dose of contrast/clarity tweaks, allows me to achieve any number of looks. Add to that a bit of dodging and burning, and suddenly one begins to appreciate that files from the MM are very flexible, and the greyscale depth, if I may call it that, is profound. Thus, if you like the Tri-X look, it can be achieved. HP-5, Neopan 1600, TMax 3200? No problem…. How about slow film, like PanX or Agfa 25 film? Yes, the MM can do those “looks” well too ….The one limitation that I see to the MM is that it’s native ISO is 320, which is relatively fast compared to slow film stock. In order to use fast glass at base ISO on the MM, one must either stop down or buy an image degrading ND filter to do so.

I enjoy being permitted many options on how to make my BW files look. The MM allows this in plentitude. MM files are incredibly flexible, and I have found the challenge of processing MM files to be ongoing. I suspect that in the years to come, I’ll come back to my old files, with new eyes and new processing techniques, and see them again for the first time. Here’s an example 2 files taken from the same photo session, where in-camera settings were the same but processing was a bit different:

Early processing – MM and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux Asph

 

More recent processing – MM and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux Asph

 

Looking at both files, I wouldn’t necessarily say that either version is “correct” per say, or represents the events as I “saw” them. They are both different truths to the same story, and this, to me, is where the MM excels. It allows one to tell many different stories, and provides files that are more flexibile than the M9 to do this, in some regards, despite losing out on R/G/B channels and selective channel tweaking…

 

QUANDRY #3 – USING FILTERS

The use of filters on the Leica MM has been well documented and discussed. In summary, it appears that the MM’s sensor takes well to the use of color filters, and one familiar with the use of such filters on their film bodies will feel at home using these same filters on the Monochrom. I have found that for ease of look, it’s best to use a yellow or medium orange filter to increase contrast straight out of camera. This can save time in processing, particularly for those of you whom are not enamored by overly grey images. Additionally, for shooting people, green, yellow, and in some cases organe filters brighten up complexion enough to provide a more “natural look”.

For many of us, using filters can be cumbersome. One has to take heed when using them, making sure to match the filter to the intended look or shooting circumstance. At times, I bring my filters, and at times, I leave them home. In either case, I find that the MM provides acceptable results. As I have lenses of many differing filter threads, I decided that I can’t own R/G/Y/O filters in every thread, so I elected to snag filters for 39 mm and 46 mm thread size. One could alternatively get several step up rings and purchase 60-72 mm filter size, and use the same filters on a variety of glass. The problem with the latter option is that it’s a bit clunky to use a 60 mm filter on a e39 lens. Filters still cost a fair chunk of cash, but keeping your filter collection reasonable is probably the way to go. If I had to choose 1-2 filters, I’d probably chose a yellow and orange filter, since the other filters tend to be a bit more specialized to more extreme looks.

 

Leica MM and 50 mm Summilux II (pre-asph) E43 lens

 

QUANDRY # 4- Too much resolution!

With the MM’s files, I marveled at the resolution capable of being displayed by the MM’s sensor, partricularly when paired with modern glass. It was definitely new territory, in terms of the camera’s capacity to resolve small details extraordinarily well, and in some cases too well. This is commonly a criticism of Leica’s current aspherical lens lineup (if there could be such a thing as that), who some state may be too “clinical” or can render details with the harsh clarity of reality, making the system’s new lens a bit controversial for portraits (see all of the internet fodder regarding the 90 mm f/2 APO-Summicron, a brilliant lens for which the devil may be in the “details” (that it renders), so to speak.

I myself have never found modern Leica glass to be too clinical when using my M8 and M9. I have seen brilliant work from many MM shooters using modern glass, by my own journey, has lead me to use older glass with slightly lower resolving capacity. Using these older lenses seems to “tame” the MM’s sensor a bit, but the results remain fantastic, and the images taken with older glass maintains adequate to superior resolution, albeit with less bite than modern glass…which I think is a good thing.

Leica MM with Leica Summarit 35 mm f/2.5

 

QUANDRY #5- ISO capability compared to film stock

I am thoroughly impressed by the MM’s high ISO capacities. Unlike the Leica M9, which I found to be limited in its ISO capacity, there appears to be no such limitation with the MM. When shooting a properly exposed scene, the photographer can easily capture files that look remarkably clean and details at ISO’s upto 5000. To me, this has opened up opportunities to shoot the MM in many new settings, including darkened street scenes. The MM’s high ISO capabilities allow the facile use of slower (smaller) lenses on the MM in more settings, opening up even more creative possibilities. . While much talk has been given to how the MM’s high ISO (3200 and beyond) looks film-like, I tend to disagree. While the camera’s high ISO grain seems fine and tasteful and allows for preservation of details of the image (without any introduction of mushiness into the pixel-peeping equation), it does not take on the look of film grain, to my eyes. The grain, particularly at ISO’s of 3200 and beyond, is decidedly digital, but not objectionable. Occasionally, when adjusting contrast or exposure when shooting at high ISO, banding may be seen. All in all, I am far more comfortable shooting the MM at high ISO’s than I ever was with the Leica M9. I try to keep my ISO cut off at 3200 for this camera, though on occasion, ISO’s beyond this are called for. Further. I find that MM’s capacity to render clean files through ISO 1600 makes it amenable to “adding” film like grain in post processing.

 Leica MM/50 mm f/2 Rigid Summicron

Alright, I have rambled on enough. I am sure that you all have had your fill of Leica M Monochrom reportage. Suffice it to say that it’s a fascinating camera capable of outstanding results for those interested in using it. It’s definitely not a camera for everyone. It is a fantastic option for those who desire superior ISO performance and broad dynamic range within the greyscale realm.

All the best,

Ashwin

Leica MM/50 mm f/2 Rigid Summicron

 

Leica MM with 90 mm f/2 Summicron v2

 

Nov 022012
 

The Leica Monochrom – My final words and samples and comparisons…for now.

So here I am, a few weeks in with my Leica Monochrom and still loving the damn thing. I was hoping I would see it as a camera that is a gimmik..a joke..a camera that is no different from any other Leica M digital but that has not been the case. Yea, I love Leica. Always have. I have also criticized them when it was warranted and when they released sub-par products that was beaten by the competition at a much cheaper price.

The Monochrom is a tricky beast. The price leaves it well out of reach for most yet there are so many photographers who lust for one. Others have the opinion that it is crap..an overpriced camera without features or…COLOR! But I see it as a unique one of a kind tool that does indeed beat the Leica M9 for tonality and high ISO capability.

“Little Man” – Leica Monochrom – 50 F/2 Summitar  - cropped  - Click it for larger version. BTW, this has not had any Photoshop work.

In case you missed them, you can see my previous entries in my ongoing Leica Monochrom review below:

Part 1: Understanding the Camera

Part 2: Low light, High ISO and using Filters on and off the camera

Part 2.5: More thoughts on the camera

GALLERY: The Leica Monochrom Gallery – New images added weekly

 “Zombie Jake” – Monochrom with 35 1.4 – ISO 320 – You must click this to see the detail in the larger version! 

-

The Monochrom is a real tool..for real photographers..for those who adore B&W photography

I have said this before but not everyone will understand it. Those who refuse to even think about spending this kind of money will instantly bash the Mono on that alone. Others will bash it because they want it but can not afford it and others will bash it because they will say their camera is just as good. Others will say “NOTHING will ever match film”, which is 100% true but why would I pay $8000 to match film? I personally feel what comes out of the Monochrom beats film in many ways. The ones who bash this camera are the photographers who do not get it, and therefore not the target market Leica was aiming at when they released the Monochrom.

The beautiful Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5 on the MM

katieflame1

-

and a $250 Canon 50 1.8 LTM

debby1take2

I have already stated that I feel the camera is overpriced but the reason for this is because it is indeed a “one of a kind” product. No one else makes a camera such as this and yes, there is a difference in the B&W quality between this camera and a Leica M9 converted file. Is it better? Well, not everyone will agree but I think so. In part 2.5 I posted three images. One from the M9 that was a converted B&W and two from the Mono. I saw the difference in tonality and I will show more below. But is it enough to fork over this kind of cash? No, not really.

What makes this camera worth it to many is because of what it is and that is PURITY. How can a digital camera be pure? By being a simple, old school, B&W only camera. That is how. It is just as pure as film and has capabilities that surpass film. Many film die hards will disagree and I am not bashing film because I also love film, I just do not shoot it these days due to cost and time.

 “In Flight” – Monochrom with 50 1.5 Zeiss Sonnar – ISO 320

L9811569

As I walk the street with my Monochrom I sit and think… What am I doing owning a $8000 Leica camera body when I am not in that upper income bracket that Leica is so marketing this camera to? Why should I own this beauty when there are other more deserving photographers who can make better use of it?  Why do I NEED this camera? Then I think some more..and the answer is clear. Because you only live once and if I can say anything about life is that we all need to LIVE IT in a way that makes us happy. We do not get a 2nd chance, life is not a dress rehearsal. We are here and then we are gone and if this camera makes me a happy man then I deserve to have it and use it and adore it.

That is basically the attitude I have with all Leica gear. I certainly should not be spending cash on Leica lenses and cameras but at the same time I do not own anything else extravagant. So why not? :)

The fact is that I love the Monochrom. I have shot it all over the place and what I see coming from it are results in B&W that are “different from any other camera I have shot with and converted. It has a look and a feeling. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and truth be told..when you start shooting the camera it takes some getting used to. The 1st few weeks I always saw shots I wanted to shoot in color. Today when I go out with the Monochrom I do not see color. I see only in black and white.

“Fresh Pie” – Monochrom and 35 1.4 – direct from camera on a harsh bright AZ day

-

Compared to the Leica M9 – Tones

Many have wondered why on earth they should buy a Monochrom when they may have a Leica M9 already. Let’s forget about other cameras for the moment because if you shoot an M you want to shoot an M. You want that experience of shooting with a rangefinder, a hand-built work of art. If you love Leica then you want a Leica.

So let us say you have an M9 and you have been itching for a Monochrom but you are not sure if there is even a difference between the files when at the end of the day you can convert a color M9 file to B&W.

I have been shooting with both the M9 and Mono for a couple of weeks and comparing results. What I have noticed is that the main things that set the Monochrom apart from the M9 is the fact that you will get MUCH less noise at higher ISO’s and you have the capability to go up to ISO 10,000 with the Mono when the M9 goes up to 2500. The Mono also gives you the Sapphire screen of course but in regards to noise and B&W tonality, IMO the Mono takes the prize when it comes to B&W photography.

It appears that ISO 2500 on the M9 is pretty close to the Leica Monochrom at ISO 6400. Even ISO 10,000 is usable on the Monochrom. 

-

and just for fun, and ISO 10,000 crop on the Mono vs the OM-D in Mono mode – NR off.

It has never been a doubt that the Monochrom is good enough in low light to take images in just about any situation. Since there is no ugly color noise we get a nice looking noise pattern, even with a high ISO setting such as 6400. 10,000 is grainy but some may like this look. Sort of like shooting Delta 3200.

-

TONES

How about tonality? Can the Mono deliver results that look better than the M9 when an M9 file is converted? Well, maybe not better but the images are certainly different.

1st shot is from the Monochrom – 35 1.4 – ISO 320 and 1/4000s – this is the full size file so you can click it to see it full size.

-

When I focused the M9 shot I realized after I was back home that the focus was off a bit so this is not to compare focus but to compare tones after the B&W conversion. I used Alien Skin exposure. Same camera settings. See a difference?

-

One more to check for tones – 1st the Monochrom…BOTH converted using the same preset…

-

And the M9 converted…

I’ve noticed the whites with the Monochrom are a bit more grey. The grey tones are darker grey than what you will get from the M9 converted color file. So is it better? Possibly, for some yes. For some no. I think what it all boils down to is if you want to get into the “Monochrom Mindset” and only shoot B&W. If so, the Mono will force you to do it. With an M9 you will sometimes keep the color file and therefore you may not start seeing in B&W as much as you would if you were shooting with a Monochrom.

“Kids 1st Zombie”  - Monochrom with 35 1.4 – noise added via filter in Alien Skin

-

“Beat the Drum” – 35 1.4 – filter applied in Alien Skin with grain. EXIF is embedded.

So what is my overall bottom line conclusion on the Monochrom? Well, there is nothing like it. Period. To have a Leica M body in all stealth charcoal black without markings that only shoots in B&W is quite the conversation starter. It is a camera that you really can’t get until you use it…hold it..press the shutter. Is it worth $8000? To me, no. To you? Maybe. The files that come out of this camera when a shot is properly focused with a good lens are mind-blowing. Prints..I can only imagine (coming soon..big prints from the Mono).

There is a richness and tonality to the files that come out of the Mono that are very pleasing but do take some getting used to. You can get results that are very grey and flat but you must have that eye in B&W mode to find the right situation for a good B&W photo. Once you get that down as well as the processing and filter use then you can start to feel comfy with the camera.

The Monochrom is not for everyone but for those who dare step into this territory then I feel you will be happy knowing you have one of the most different cameras on the market. A full frame Monochrom only sensor camera with classic beauty, classic handling and even classic usability. Mixed with the ultra simple controls of focus, aperture and shutter speed and you have a winner for those of us who want to shoot in a pure way. The Leica Monochrom gives us that.

Only you can decide if it is for you. B&W only, Superb ISO performance, Gorgeous files in a Leica M body. $8000.

“Hey Brother can you spare some Brains”? – Mono with 50 Summitar

L1003075-3

Where to Buy the Leica Monochrom?

If you want to buy one of these and are prepared to take the heat from your significant other about it then you can buy from one of the following dealers, all of whom I recommend:

Ken Hansonemail at [email protected]

B&H Photo

Dale Photo

Pop Flash

The Pro Shop  - 561-253-2606

The only problem is that this camera is back ordered and usually dealers have wait lists going on. Be sure to check with all dealers to see where they stand on stock and tell them I sent you!

Zeiss 50 Planar at 2.8

mrcatintherain

debby6400

What else can I say?

After 3 previous parts to this review and several other posts prior to these I feel that everything I could say about the Monochrom has been said. It is what it is and you know if it is something for you or if you would benefit by owning one. All I know is I am in love with mine and will continue to use it during those times where I feel B&W would suit. I may even be inspired to go out and start a new series like I used to do when I had more time. Maybe pick up on my Homeless Project where I left off a few years ago. The Mono motivates :)

Zeiss Sonnar 1.5

katiehqs

mike-

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE 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 (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), 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 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help!

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +!

Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

Nov 022012
 

Leica Noctilux f/0.95 in stock! 50 Lux ASPH in stock! 

Just an announcement for those of you looking for these lenses! The 50 Noctilux is now in stock at B&H Photo HERE. They go quickly so if you have been waiting, it is there right now!

Also, The Pro Shop for Photographers has the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH in stock in BLACK or SILVER! Best to call them at  561.253.2606 if you want one. 

 

PSAs I have done for 3+ years I post when hot lenses and cameras are in stock, with links..as a service to you. Sometimes I will get a small credit for this which is what keeps this site alive as I cant run it and pay for it on my charm alone :) Both B&H and Pro Shop are sponsors of this site and I recommend them highly along with Ken Hansen ([email protected]), Dale Photo and PopFlash.  

Oct 282012
 

Zombie Apocalypse! My weapons of choice? Leica Monochrom, M9 and Olympus OM-D!

Halloween is just about here and what better way to celebrate it than to attend a good old-fashioned Zombie Walk? I went out yesterday in Phoenix AZ strapped with my Leica Monochrom, a borrowed Leica M9 and my Olympus OM-D and a few lenses to see if I could snap any images of the undead without them eating my brains. The images below were all shot with one of those three cameras.  I also had the Panasonic 8mm Fisheye for M4/3 and LOVED using it at this event. I am writing up a review of that lens so will only include a couple of images here from that lens but it is great fun as fisheyes always are, even with their limited use.

This is just a quick Sunday post for fun as well as a quick POLL to see how many of you can spot the Leica M9 image below when mixed with two Monochrom shots. This site is always about the fun and passion in photography over the technical stuff and besides..it’s Sunday so I am not going to get to involved and sit at my desk for 5 hours :)

Zombies in Monochrom 

A few of the images in this post are from the Leica Monochrom which made me think of the original “Night of the Living Dead”, which was shot in B&W. Zombies really pop in color but they can also look pretty cool in B&W.

BTW, One of the three images below was shot with the M9 and converted to B&W. Can you spot which one? HINT: The M9 converted to B&W will give off a different look to the Greys/whites than the Monochrom.

#1

-

#2

-

#3

Can you spot the M9 image? Vote in the poll below and cast your vote: WHICH IMAGE IS FROM THE M9? 1, 2, or 3?

10/29 – ANSWER: The M9 shot is #3!

Be sure to click the images for larger versions! In my upcoming part 3 review on the Mono I will have some full size 100% files for you to check out from the Zombie walk. It was loads of fun shooting with the Mono though I have to say..these walking undead zombies POPPED in color!

Zombies in COLOR

While at the walk I was blown away with some of the make up and effects some of the “walkers” did on themselves. There were zombies everywhere! Teenage zombies, old zombies and even kid zombies :) It is amazing how popular the whole Zombie genre is these days. There were entire families showing up as zombies and it was super cool to see and interact with everyone. The cool thing is that everyone there LOVED getting their photos taken. Take a look at just a few of the shots I snapped below using the various cameras and lenses.

The M9 and 35 1.4

-

The OM-D and the Panasonic 8mm Fisheye

-

OM-D and 12mm f/2

-

Leica M9…this guy wanted to eat the camera and then feast on my brains!

-

OM-D and Fisheye

-

The OM-D and 75 1.8..this lady had the hair but no makeup so she resembled a troll doll :)

-

Leica M9 and 50 Summitar 

-

The OM-D and 75 1.8

-

M9 and 50 Summitar

I have to say that if there is a Zombie Walk in your neighborhood  next Halloween then GO! It is loads of fun, there are a gazillion photo opps and everyone is friendly and having a great time, which makes for some great image making possibilities. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

Steve  

Oct 032012
 

My Leica Monochrom Arrives! Unboxing Video with review up in 3 weeks…

So finally…after months and months of waiting and being #1 on the waiting list of Ken Hansen my Leica Monochrom has come in. Ken only received ONE this week and this is it. Leica has been super slow in getting this camera out for some reason. Not sure if they are trying to keep the stock low to make the demand look high or if they are just restricting the numbers made for other reasons but it has finally arrived, so I am happy.

The Monochrom is one of those cameras that NO ONE else has even dared to take on. No one else besides Leica would even dream of making a B&W only camera so why did Leica do it when it could have spelled disaster for them due to cost and the basic fact that you can not shoot color with this oh so basic old school rangefinder camera? $8000..black & white only. This is not for everyone.

The video below shows an unboxing of a production and final Monochrom

The release of this camera has caused quite the controversy because mostly all of the samples (besides the official Leica samples they showed off at the Berlin event) that have been shown to date on various websites (including this one) has shown results that are mixed. The fact is that the files from the Monochrom appear flat right out of the camera with loads of grey tones. They look very “UN”…un-exciting, un-dramatic and un-soulful. MOst of the time. If you have that perfect lighting you will get amazingly detailed rich files right from a JPG but most of the times these files need some work to spruce them up.

There is a reason this camera ships with codes for Lightroom 4 and Silver Efex Pro. I feel to get the most out of the Mono you must use plug-ins like Silver Efex Pro or Alien Skin Exposure. With that said..why would or should we have to do this with a camera such as this? If we wanted to convert why wouldn’t we just keep our M9 and convert? Is there REALLY a difference?

I feel the B&W images from the Mono do have a different look than a converted M9 file and it is going to take me some time to get it all figured out which is why I will be taking this camera out for the next few weeks and taking my time with the review. I feel once we learn how to properly process these files that the results could be stunning. At this point I am still experimenting.

All I did today was fire off a few snaps with a 35 Lux to test the focus and I can happily say it is amazingly spot on :) What I have noticed so far is the Monochrom has gobs of detail, much more dynamic range than an M9 and high ISO up to 10,000 will be nice to have. So right there it is an improvement over an M9 (though again, no color here). If you have the bucks this camera and the new M should make an unbeatable combo. Even this mono and an M9 or new M-E would be sweet. Again, if you have the bucks and enjoy the Leica experience (such as I do).

Yes indeed this camera will cost you big time but if you have the passion for B&W photography and you have the cash then it really wont get much better than this. Of course I am speaking of 35mm full frame/compact size. After just a full day with it I am really loving this camera, and no, I am not even close to being rich. You do not have to be rich to buy a Leica. I just live a simple life in all other areas. Small cheap house, cheap car, no other expensive hobbies. This is now my only M camera. My M9-P was sold  to fund the new M. So it is B&W only for me for the next few weeks as I dig into this new MM. Full Review in a few weeks.

BTW, the case I have on the Monochrom comes from classiccases.co.uk and I will review this case with the Monochrom :) But so far it is a PERFECT companion for the MM because it has a back flap that covers the LCD..no chimping allowed!

Now some snapshots I grabbed right after the camera arrived to make sure all was good…click them to see them the right way.

Here I am with the Mono at 1.4 – click all images to see them the right way and just how detailed they are!

-

The 35 Lux out of my office window at 2.8 – had some fun with a Alien Skin filter but click it to see the tones!

-

An old antique 1940′s doll – added an Alien Skin filter

-

The detail is insane. This is at 1.4 with the 35 – click the image for larger size and 100% crop. ISO 640. Look at the detail on the crop of the hand.

-

The 35 wide open..cant get any sharper

-

Detail Detail and this is an OOC JPEG! The 35 at f/2 – click it to see full crop!

ALL I ASK! HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

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 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page and Google +  page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
21