May 192011
 

Ok guys…all of this Fuji X100 craziness is driving ME crazy! Lol. My e-mail inbox has been flooded in the last week asking me the question “What should I buy” – The X1 or X100? First of all, I can’t tell you WHAT to buy as I have no idea what fits your style, your needs, or your wants. I love both the X1 and X100. Both are capable of taking beautiful photos. One is made in Germany by Leica, one in Japan by Fuji. One is $1995, one is $1200. One has a viewfinder, the other is smaller and sleeker. One has a fast F2 lens, the other a slower 2.8 lens. When I reviewed the X100 I did NOT have a Leica X1 on hand to properly compare it to, but one is now on the way!

Leica dealer Ken Hansen (email: [email protected]) is sending me an X1 which will arrive Monday and I will finally be able to compare the two, side by side to showcase the differences in the way each camera operates and renders the image. I will shoot RAW and JPEG and will be taking a trip for this one so I have some fresh photographic opportunities. Maybe I will still do my Showdown in Tombstone..maybe I will take a trip up to Sedona AZ to photograph the red rocks..maybe both.

I will shoot both cameras equally. Same settings, same ISO, same everything. After my trip I will report back here with my experiences of shooting BOTH and which I preferred. There will also be plenty of images as well as discussion about  the usability of each. This way you guys can read it and then decide what will work best for YOU, if any of them!

I am looking forward to this. I am ready for a photo road trip! As for the cameras,  The X1 is almost 2 years old but still packs a punch even though the X100 is newer. I will also be reviewing the new firmware 2.0 of the X1. I am also still enjoying the X100 almost daily and am finding it to be a fantastic camera. I am ok with just a 35mm lens, and could easily live with just that focal length if I were just an everyday hobbyist.

So be on the lookout NEXT WEEK for this comparison. I am not going to get overly technical or worry about ultimate sharpness as there is MUCH more to a photo than that. I do know that each camera renders differently, that is fact! I will also be publishing my Olympus XZ-1 review next week as well as talk about a few other cameras that I had here for the last two weeks that just didn’t do it for me.

As always, thanks for visiting the site!

Steve

May 032011
 

The British Royal Wedding with a Leica X1, M9 and Noctilux 0.95

By Edmond Terakopian

It’s not everyday that there’s a Royal Wedding and the last time there was this much excitement was when Price Charles married Lady Diana; actually, I think there may have been even more excitement this time round as Prince William is much loved and the nation seems to have taken to Kate Middleton rather well!

What all this meant was that pictures from the event would be sought after and the pressure was on. It soon became apparent that it was going to be a logistical nightmare; accreditation, the cost of some of the spots, geographical distance between locations and the hundreds of thousands of spectators meant that it would be impossible for one photographer to cover everything. The prime locations would be the domain of the papers and agencies.

I needed something different; I was shooting for Polaris Images and my pictures were headed more for the magazine market. I needed to find a way of telling the story. My decision was to photograph the reaction of the people and the atmosphere. I started my story with memorabilia, went on to the super dedicated fans who camped out nights before and then onto a good old fashioned British street party; all about atmosphere.

I was caught off-guard though! I had put aside an evening as i was invited to the World Photography Awards, followed by the exhibition, drinks and networking gathering. Halfway through the awards ceremony I saw an email from Polaris letting me know that campers had shown up at the Westminster Abbey and they needed material. I make it absolute policy to always have a camera with me no matter what. However, I was a bit worried if I could shoot a feature assignment properly on a pocket camera. Well, I must say that the Leica X1 rose to the challenge beautifully and I shot the entire set of night camping pictures on it. At 800 and 1600ASA it performed beautifully and I managed to get a few good shots.

I went back to the camp during the following day. This time I was properly kitted out. In my little Fogg b-laika shoulder bag I had my Leica M9, 21mm Elmarit, 35mm Summicron ASPH, 50mm f0.95 Noctilux ASPH and 90mm f2.5 Summarit. On my shoulder I also had a Canon 5D MkII with a 135mm f2L lens for the more distant and tight shots. Having worked the scene for around an hour or so I decided to leave and go to Buckingham Palace to see what was happening there.

Whilst at the Palace I shot a set of rehearsal type shots with the guards and also found more fans camping. It was wonderful; I had found fans from Zimbabwe, San Fransisco, Sweden, Australia to name just a few places. I made more pictures here and then shot off home to edit and file my pictures to Polaris.

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For the day of the wedding, after several weeks research, I had found what I hoped would be the perfect street party and it turned out to be so. This lovely small road had been shut with a pub at one end and a row of tables filling the street to the other end. Taking pictures inside the pub whilst people watched the TV screens to the party outside gave me a nice range of atmospheric imagery. After around five hours I was done and I went back home to edit and send.

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What surprised me about this assignment was just how much of it I shot on the 50mm Noctilux; I’d shot around 75% of the entire project on the Nocti. When I looked through my work, I realised that I could have shot the entire thing with just the M9 and the 50mm Noctilux!

On a technical note, I did all my editing, captioning and image processing on Apple’s Aperture 3. For the black and white images you see here, I also used Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2.

To see more of these pictures, please visit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/terakopian/sets/72157626496350197/

and for colour:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/terakopian/sets/72157626629213070/

 

I also have a short blog post at:

http://photothisandthat.co.uk/2011/05/02/royal-wedding/

My website is at: http://www.pix.org.uk/

 

Lastly, you can follow me on Twitter – @terakopian

Mar 282011
 

NEW: LEICA ANNOUNCES FIRMWARE UPDATE FOR LEICA X1

Allendale, NJ (March 28, 2011) – Leica Camera, Inc. is pleased to announce a firmware update for its high-performance digital compact camera, the LEICA X1. Users wishing to benefit from the new offerings can download the firmware update from the Leica website and take advantage of new, improved features beginning Tuesday March 29, 2011.

The new X1 firmware offers the following features and benefits:

· Improved manual focusing, with the focus screen showing the image based on an open aperture

· More accurate manual focusing with finer steps, when scrolling slowly with the click wheel

· Two manual focusing speeds for more accurate and faster manual focus operation

· Manual focusing lock now available

· Enlarged manual focusing scale display

· Depth of field scale displayed in manual focusing mode

· Manual focus settings retained in memory when camera is switched off

· Improved autofocus speed in low light conditions and with low contrast subjects, in particular when shooting multiple images of the same subject

· ISO setting displayed in Auto ISO mode

· Improved JPEG image quality

For more information, please visit: http://us.leica-camera.com/photography/compact_cameras/x1.

About the Leica X1

The Leica X1 delivers the best picture quality among compact cameras. This elegant camera features a 12.2 megapixel CMOS image sensor in APS-C format, identical in size to those used in semi-professional DSLR cameras. Each individual pixel has a generous surface area and collects more light, therefore ensuring low noise levels, high dynamic range and accurate color differentiation. Expressed in terms of 35mm film format, the X1’s Elmarit 24mm f/2.8 ASPH lens has the same coverage as the legendary 35 mm focal length. While its numerous automatic functions make the X1 extremely fast and intuitive to use, its manual control options enable the photographer to maintain concentration on the creative aspects of the composition.

Mar 082011
 

I’ve been busy organizing and packing!


Lots of you have asked me to list what I am packing for the Seal tour this week so I decided to post my list! I will be out for three weeks with one goal in mind..kick ass photography with my Leica gear! Well, I am actually packing a medium sized kit (by photographers standards) believe it or not. Besides one huge suitcase with 3 weeks worth of t-shirts, clothes, and hygiene necessities I am taking along a few cameras.

First off, I am bringing my Pelican bag to hold all cameras for the plane ride. This bag is pretty nice and has been with me for years now. It will hold TWO Leica M9′s, a few lenses, and my X1 along with all cables, chargers, and accessories. It’s so cool to be heading out and shooting this tour and packing so light (well, not really that light). No need for a DSLR and huge lenses. Nope, give me an M and a 35, 50, or 90 any day!

I want to thank Leica Camera for sending me some equipment to use for the tour, also Ken Hansen who came through for me last minute and Dale Photo who also helped me out for this trip! It is so cool to be associated with such great people! Of course, thanks to Seal for having me shoot this tour and B&H Photo for shipping my new Macbook Pro out so quickly. I think I am ready to rock…

Here is my UPDATED checklist of what I am getting together and bringing with me to South America!

  • Big Suitcase to hold my clothes and hygiene necessities. :)
  • This Pelican camera and laptop bag to hold all cameras, lenses, and my laptop/cables/chargers and snacks. I have had this bag for three years and it always does its job well. It holds SO much!
  • This Macbook Pro 13″ – Latest model which is awesome! It will be nestled inside its cool green leather sleeve. I just bought this laptop it to replace my 4-5 year old Macbook Pro. I always buy my Apple computers from B&H. Cheaper and no tax!

I always get my Apple computers through B&H Photo. You save quite a bit as they sell cheaper and you do not pay tax. They also offer free shipping! This is the latest 13″ model…

  • Two Leica M9′s – Thanks to Ken Hansen and Leica Camera! One is mine, one is a loaner backup courtesy of Leica.
  • Leica 28 Elmarit, 35 Summicron and 90 Summarit (Thanks to David at Dale Photo for hooking me up)
  • I will also be shooting with the Leica Noctilux f/0.95 once I meet up with Seal.
  • Four Sandisk Ultra 16GB SDHC SD Cards
  • External Hard Drive for backup!
  • Jawbone JAMBOX for my hotel stay music listening and movie watching.
  • Snacks for the long plane rides..have to eat! Hmmm…nuts, jerky, granola…all sounds good.
  • My passport of course.
  • My Iphone 4 and Mophie Juice Pack Plus.
  • This cool photo vest to hold all of my goodies while shooting! Well, maybe the vest is a bit geeky but will come in handy when shooting.
  • This BEEP, and M9 screen protector from Popflash Photo to help out my grey M9.
  • and Cash – Oops, I am all out!

So, have I forgotten anything?

Check out the tour schedule and if you are going to these shows be sure to look for me or even e-mail me and let me know which show you will be at. Would be great to meet some of you if I can! I will be updating the site as often as I can with tour updates and of course loads of great photos. Three weeks of shooting a tour, awesome. Am I dreaming or what?!?!? If you missed my report on the week I spent with the tour last year you can read about it HERE at the official Leica Blog.

 

Dec 262010
 

Received and e-mail from Jeff Garlin from the TV show “Curb Your Enthusiasm“. He told me he is a big fan of this site (awesome!) and wanted to let me know he has a black Leica X1 for sale that is basically new. Seeing that the black ones are rare right now and that I have received a few e-mails asking me who had black ones…I decided to post this for him (he was cool with it of course)  - So here it is on E-Bay – bid away :)

Dec 132010
 

Happy Monday to all! Today I decided to post a quick comparison between the much loved Leica X1 and the misunderstood Ricoh GXR (tested here with the 28mm Lens Module). I was curious as to which camera put out a better file, which camera had better high ISO and which camera was faster in operation. Here are my findings and I hope you guys find them useful.

We all know the Leica X1 is a gorgeous compact camera that packs a whallop in the image quality department. The main issue with the X1 is it’s cost ($1995) and its slow AF speed (which will be improved with firmware that is being worked on now). Other than that it has proven to be a remarkable little camera. The GXR has had a tough time in the market due to the fact that it takes “lens modules” that have a sensor built in to the lens. You can see my full GXR review HERE but I myself really enjoy the camera and find its build, feel and operation are really really good. The 28mm lens module is really a great lens but the GXR and X1 do have some differences in the way they render an image.

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BUILD:

The GXR wins in the build quality department. It’s sturdier feeling and just feels solid. The X1 is very very nice here as well but has a sort of lighter more hollow feel to it. Still, both cameras are great in the build department. No complaints. The X1 is a prettier camera no doubt but that is all personal preference. Some will enjoy the industrial looking GXR and many will drool over the sexy looks of the X1. I love the style of the X1 and think it’s a better looking camera than the GXR.

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AF SPEED:

Between the GXR with the 28mm and the Leica X1 the GXR is a bit faster with focusing. When the new firmware comes out for the X1 in the next 2-3 months then they may be equal or the X1 may even be faster because I have been hearing good things about the speed enhancements. As it is now, the Ricoh locks on a bit quicker than the X1 but truth be told, neither are speed demons but both are VERY accurate and rarely miss focus.

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IMAGE QUALITY:

This is the big one. Both cameras use a larger APS-C sensor and they do so while keeping the body sizes small. Both cameras go up to ISO 3200 and the X1 has a 24 Elmarit which ends up being a 36mm equivalent while the 18mm on the GXR happens to be a 28mm equivalent. So the focal lengths are a bit different in these tests but it was as close as I could get with the GXR. All tests were done at the same aperture and a few were with the same exact setting while some I let the cameras choose their own exposure in A mode.

**YOU MUST CLICK ON THE IMAGES BELOW TO SEE THE FULL SIZE FILES – THEY ARE STRAIGHT FROM CAMERA (RAW) WITH NO ENHANCEMENTS OR ALTERATIONS**

BELOW – GXR WITH 28MM – F/8 – Base iso of 200

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BELOW – X1 at f/8 – Base ISO of 100

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100% crops – no enhancements – no sharpening – no tweaks – straight from camera (RAW)

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and more…This shot was ay ISO 1600 with each but I let the camera pick the shutter speed to see how each camera would expose the scene.

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and the 100% crops…

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More at ISO 200 – f/2.8 – remember, click on each image for the full size out of camera untouched files!

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and the 100% crops…

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Some high ISO testing – I used a tripod here and set each camera to the same ISO, same aperture and same shutter speed..

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and the 100% crops…

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one more – testing ISO 1600 and Auto White Balance in semi low light (indoor daytime) – The GXR does have better AWB IMO over the X1 and its shows here. The X1 has the yellow cast that shows up in lower light.

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and the 100% crops…

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So there you go. Comparisons at low ISO, the highest ISO and a AWB test. Both cameras seem pretty similar with the X1 seeming brighter (and maybe more livelier) in most situations. In some of the shots it appears the GXR is a little sharper than the X1 but it also has a bit of a different signature. The GXR has better AWB in low light IMO. The X1 is $1995 and the GXR with 28mm lens is about $1050, almost half the cost. The GXR has the capabilities to change lenses/sensors and the X1 does not.

The X1 is a Leica and has the red dot and is a gorgeous looking camera. It’s simple, has easy controls and is highly a highly capable camera with a fixed focal length of 36mm. The GXR is more industrial looking and sturdier. While the controls are not as elegant as the X1, they are there.

I’ve had people ask me which camera I would buy if I was starting from scratch and wanted a compact big sensor camera – The X1 or the GXR system. That would be tough because I would have to see what the new firmware does for the X1 but with that being said, I think my heart would want the X1 but my brain would tell me to go with the GXR. Then again, the Fuji X100 which should be available within 3 months will throw a wrench into this whole thing. If the Fuji is as good as it appears to be (and it may not be) then it will be the one to beat. BUT the Fuji is much bigger than the X1 or the GXR so it is not really a compact.

For a compact big sensor you have three choices that are good – The Leica X1 at $2k, the GXR and Module at about $1k and the Sony NEX-5 with kit lens at $700. Those are my three favorite in the small size/big sensor market.

Thanks for reading this and I hope it was useful to some of you! The X1 is currently out of stock almost everywhere but it seems that Dale Photo has at least one in stock here and they are a site sponsor that is 100% trustworthy. The GXR is available through Amazon for $349 for the body only, and they have a few in stock HERE. The 28mm module is available to order at Amazon as well. Enjoy!

Steve

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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 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!

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Nov 292010
 

NEW LEICA X1 FIRMWARE COMING…..


I heard it direct from Leica today that there is indeed a new firmware update on the way for the Leica X1! This update will feature “numerous enhancements” . I was also told that two of these enhancements would be “advanced AF speed and MF options, including Depth of Field scale.”  - I did not get a release date but was told it is still being worked on and that it will enhance the functionality of the X1 so this is GREAT news as the AF speed was my main niggle with this camera. I heard from a few other sources that the AF speed is supposed to be twice as fast..so I truly hope Leica pulls it off. Can’t wait for the update! If anyone was thinking of a new Black X1 (which should hit the shelves SOON SOON SOON)…there is new life waiting to be breathed into the camera so jump on it if the X1 is what you have been eyeballing :) One thing is for sure, the file quality out of this little guy is truly gorgeous (as all of you X1 owners know).

Aug 072010
 

Some Saturday Leica X1 Love…

The weekend is upon us and it’s a BEAUTIFUL grey and rainy day here in Phoenix, AZ! Yes, beautiful as it is a break from the extreme heat and sun! Anyway, just thought I would post a slew of X1 photos that I took over the past 3-4 weeks. Total Randomness! BTW, for the tech heads, the EXIF should be intact on all of the images. Just click on them to view/download larger versions!

btw, this 1st image “CanonMan” had noise added when I applied a film filter in Color Efex Pro. It was shot at 2.8 and ISO 320, but noise was added, not in the original file.

Jul 292010
 

I had a few more requests for some comparisons with the Sony NEX 5 at low ISO and high ISO. So, since I am against shooting charts and graphs I decided to shoot my favorite macaroni and cheese :) All images are straight out of camera JPEGS, starting with ISO 200 from the NEX-5, then Leica X1 and then the Olympus E-P2. Then after those three it will be going into an SO 3200 image from each. These are all JPEG only.

YOU MUST CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO SEE  THE FULL SIZE OUT OF CAMERA VERSIONS!

1st up, ISO 200 from the Sony NEX-5 – Kit Zoom lens at F4.5 – 24mm which is 36mm equivalent

Leica X1 – ISO 200 – F4 – 24mm which is 36mm equivilant

and now the Olympus E-P2 – ISO 200 – f4.3 – 20mm which is 40mm equivalent (14-150 zoom)

Now, ISO 3200 from each…

Sony NEX-5 – ISO 3200 – MUST CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL SIZE JPEG

LEICA X1 – F4 – ISO 3200

Olympus E-P2 – ISO 3200

Ok, now I am hungry so I am off  to go cook this up and have some lunch :)

Jul 202010
 

I’m back from Europe, jet lag and all!

I’m back home after a week on tour with Seal and after what seemed like a solid 20 hours of travel time to get back home, I arrived and crashed for 10 hours. Today I felt great and am now fully rested so figured it was time to get back to work as I need  this site more than ever.

I had a great time with Seal on the tour and wanted to share some new photos here as well as a few of the favorites that I was able to get from the past few days. Shooting concerts is loads of fun, but also tiring when doing two hours each show in sweltering heat. I have no idea how Seal and his band does it as they have what appears to be unlimited energy through the entire night. Add to that the little sleep one gets on the road and it makes me have even greater respect for what they do on a daily basis.

The shows were awesome, the music was awesome, and the locations were gorgeous (even though I did not get to see too much of them). His new album comes out in September and the songs I heard were mind blowing good. His best work ever, and as he says, the Quintessential SEAL Album.

What I want to talk about today though is my experiences taking all of these concert photos and the gear I used to  take them with. What worked, what didn’t, and what I feel is the best concert camera/lens combo on the planet.  When I left to meet up with the tour I only brought along a Leica X1, Olympus E-P2, Sony NEX-5 and a Pentax K7. I did not bring my Leica M9 as I had to sell it just a couple of days before due to financial issues beyond my control. Many of you know the situation I was recently put in, and financially, it killed me. So the big toys had to go. So that hurt and killed me but no choice.

The cool thing is that when I got there Seal had many cameras with him and he allowed me to shoot with whatever I wanted. He let me borrow his M9/Noct combo, his Canon 1dMKIV, etc. That is one of the cool things, I was able to shoot with so many cameras and find out what worked well. I always dreamed that one day I would get to shoot concerts as I am a huge fame of Jim Marshall who used a Leica to shoot some of the most historic concert photos of our time. While many say a concert should only be shot with a DSLR, I feel a Leica M is the best tool for the job in most cases, with the right lens.

The Dream Combo – The Leica M9 and Noctilux 0.95

The LEICA M9 and Noctilux is a combo that comes in at over $17,000. INSANE amounts of money but it’s a beautiful setup that will give you results like no other camera and lens combo on the market. I shot this setup at 0.95 for three nights and it never let me down. The first two night I shot in A mode, but by night 3 I was all manual. Focusing was very easy for me and capturing Seal as he moved around the stage was a challenge but doable. Due to the M9′s bright viewfinder, and focus patch I came away with some beautiful images. If you have $17,000 to spare, hey, why not? For concerts? This is my dream setup. If I were a hotshot pro concert photographer I would own TWO M9′s, the Noctilux and a 90. No question. The images from this combo are in a class of their own and do not look like standard pro concert shots.

The Canon 1dMKIV with 100 Macro lens

THE CANON 1D MKIV – Shooting this massive DSLR was sort of a revelation. I have not shot with a DSLR in a while and once  held this camera I knew it meant serious business. The focus was lightning quick, the response was simply jaw dropping and the images that came out of it were beautiful. This combo comes in at MUCH less than the M9/Nocti and in many ways will give you more reliable and consistent results. The color is much nicer and the camera is so chock full of features it numbed my brain a bit. I am so used to simplicity with the M9, I forgot how high tech DSLR’s have become these days! I shot it with the Canon 100 Macro and it never did let me down BUT most of the shots I took with it looked like many other pro concert shooters images. Is that a bad thing? No, but I feel the M9/Nocti combo gives a unique edge with the “look” one can achieve. Still, this is probably the best Canon DSLR I have EVER shot with. Gorgeous.

THE SONY NEX-5

This new Sony NEX-5 camera is A unique little bugger. One one hand, we have a small, cute, nicely designed camera that has a large APS-C sensor in it which should mean GREAT quality in a compact size. WRONG! The lens this camera comes with is very very soft and after shooting it all week I found it to be TOO soft for my tastes. At web resolution the images are fine but at closer look they are soft.  I did shoot one of the shows with it but had to crank ISO to 6400 and shoot in B&W as the color shots were awful at that ISO. BUT, for $700 it is a decent camera as it packs in a great 108oi movie mode, and its LCD is very nice with its swivel feature. This camera needs a better user interface AND better lenses. Then it may be more worthy of consideration over other small cameras. As it stands, I prefer the Olympus E-P2 over the NEX and even from what I have seen of the Samsung NX10, I prefer it over the Sony. But, the Sony is TINY, I will give it that! Also, I found this camera excels when shot in B&W!

For concerts, it would not be my #1 choice, or #2, or #3, or #4…but it can provide some great shots regardless…

The Leica X1

Ahhhh, my Leica X1, now my only Leica :( This is a fantastic camera but it has its quirks of course. It’s small and light but looks and feels like a Leica. The Image Quality from this little jewel is astounding and the lens is also special. High ISO is better than the Leica M8 and I have no worries shooting it at ISO 3200. For concerts, its not the most responsive solution, and you have to  get in really close so no, it’s not a traditional concert camera but like the Sony, it can pull it off if you work at it. I take the X1 with me everywhere these days. Love it.

The flight out to meet with the tour was WONDERFUL. Even home made ice cream sundaes were offered up, all free of course!

The horn section warming up before the show.

after the show mostly everyone hooks up with their loved one via Ichat on their macbooks. So cool :)

The bus rides were always interesting but always the same. On the bus, edit photos, drive for a few hours, off of the bus, eat, shoot the show, back to the bus, drive and maybe get some sleep. It was so cool to experience this first hand and now I can say I accomplished something I always wanted to do, and that is tour with a band and shoot their shows.

Florence Italy from my hotel window…

Seal portrait in his Hotel

The Olympus E-P2

The little Oly that could, THE LOVELY E-P2. This camera has been a fave of mine for a while. I like its build, its feel, its look and its EVF even if it does stick out like an alien life form. For a concert situation I did not have too much luck with it but when I slapped it in grainy B&W mode it did add a unique twist on traditional convert photography.

I did not shoot with the Oly too much but I did enjoy it more than the Sony NEX-5 and that is most likely only due to the lens quality being better on the Oly. The only lens that I shot with on the Olympus was the 14-150, and its a great, but slow lens.

I also shot some stuff with the Pentax Kx and 200 f/2.8. Great camera kit and lens but I did not get the best results with this setup so I ended up leaving it on the bus for most of the trip. It seemed when the lights went down, even with the f/2.8 lens, it could not keep up IQ wise. Nice setup with good light but it lacked that “something” that cameras like the X1, M9 and 1dMKIV had.

With that said, I hope you have enjoyed this little article on my experiences with these cameras while shooting them in a concert setting. So thank you for reading it, and thanks once again to Seal for allowing me to tag along for a week. It was a great experience that helped me in a time when I needed it most. Thanks buddy!! I know you are reading this :)

Also, I have to put a shameless plug in here as right now I need all the help I can get. I have been dealt some rough blows lately in my personal life and I can use all the help I can get. I never ask for donations, and am not doing so now but if any of you reading this need to buy any gear it would REALLY help me if you used my links to B&H Photo or Amazon to do so. Just clicking those links will give me credit for ANYTHING you buy there, so I thank you!

PS – Due  to many requests I added a paypal donate button on the right, and can also do donations via google checkout but would have to email an invoice. Also, I have been toying with the idea of a get together soon, spending a day in a great location shooting, learning and processing. More to come on that. Also, all of the emails – will get back to you ALL tomorrow! THANK YOU TO ALL for the support, it really helps to boost my spirits!

Jul 152010
 

July 15th 2010 – Hey guys, on the bus headed for Florence, Italy and I was able to connect to WiFi for a bit so I uploaded some shots from last nights show in Croatia. This one was more of a challenge due to lighting, access, etc. but I still walked away with some cool stuff. I shot with the Pentax Kx, The Leica M9, The Leica X1 and the Sony NEX-5.

The Sony NEX-5 is a great little camera and I prefer it to the NEX-3 for ergonomics, but the lenses are the weak link IMO. The zoom has much more distortion than the 16mm prime lens, and is borderline un-usable at its widest setting of 18 if you are shooting any type of architecture. Also, I found while the LCD is fantastic, it is still a challenge to see it in bright light though all cameras have this issues. The one thing that the Sony does have going for it is speed. It’s AF is fast though sometimes gives a false focus lock. When I compared some shots with the X1, it was no contest…the X1 slaughtered the NEX for Image Quality but for speed, and features the NEX-5 wins. For $700, the 5 is a great camera, and makes for a great all-in-one-take-anywhere solution.

Before the show I was in my (very beautiful) hotel room and I had 2 hours to kill so I took a short walk around the village with the Sony NEX-5.

The stairs going down from my room. Sony NEX-5, 18-55. OOC JPEG.

again, the NEX-5 with kit zoom but I did some desaturation on this one as I thought the colors of the original were a but too punchy.

Converted this one to B&W using SIlver Efex Pro

At sound check, the sun was beating down and it was hot & humid. It felt hotter than it does in Phx, AZ due to the humidity.

Showtime, so I started the night shooting with the M9 and Noctilux combo again…

And 3/4 of the way through I grabbed the X1 and had a go with it. If you can get close, the X1 can do a great job, even with its slower AF.

Two more Noctilux shots in B&W (In camera B&W)

one from the Pentax Kx and 200 2.8

and Olympus E-P2 with 14-150

So far so good! Having a great time and all the guys in the band, as well as management are class acts. After just three days I already feel like part of the family. Three days to go before my long flight home but I am thrilled that I was able to come along for the ride for a week. Tomorrow I should have some shots from Florence, Italy and I will mainly be shooting the X1 and NEX-5 while there. As for the next show, I may be shooting it with a Canon 7D to try out an SLR for once :)

Thanks for looking!

This story continues HERE with day 4 & 5

Jul 092010
 

Hey guys! I am back today, a bit earlier than planned but I had a good day today at Slide Rock State Park which is near Sedona, AZ. I was not really in the mood to snap pics but once I got going I had a good time. Just wanted to chime in and say hey, and also I will be planing a cool cool trip with my son REALLY soon and blogging from the road (more details soon). For now, here are a few fun shots from yesterday. Nothing spectacular but may give you an idea of the look each camera can put out:

The Leica X1 at f2.8 – A quick grab shot of Brandon, Kyle and Mike before we headed out! Had to stock up on snacks and drinks. Me, I skipped them as I wasnt hungry. My appetite has been lousy these past few days. Family,  friends and fun. What more could one ask for?

I saw this old Ford and had to get a couple of shots. I had the X1 in hand.

Ford up close – Fordomatic

The X1 is such a great little camera with the best quality I have seen in a compact

Kyle Taking A Jump! – Nex 5 and 18-55.

Jump #2 with the X1

The curious baby looking at the 14-150 on my E-P2

Quick Video shot with the E-P2 and 14-150

Jul 052010
 

The high ISO test between the Olympus E-P2, Leica X1 and Sony NEX-3. I’ll keep this one short and simple.

  • Same subject.
  • Same light. (which was LOW for the higher ISO shots 1600/3200)
  • All three cameras set to ISO 400, 1600 and then 3200 with their default evaluative metering and settings.
  • All images straight out of camera, so what you see below is what you get. The white balance you see is what each camera gave for AWB.
  • I let the cameras meter choose the shutter speed because I wanted to see which one gave the best/most accurate metering.
  • Sony 16mm lens at 2.8, Oly 17mm lens at 2.8 and the Leica with its built in 24 at 2.8.
  • This is just a quick test for noise, nothing more, nothing less.
  • You must click on each image to see the larger full size and/or crops.

I’ll let the samples do the talking, but keep in mind this is a high ISO test for noise/color and i used out of camera JPEGS due to the lack of RAW support for the sony.

First Up, ISO 400 – CLICK images for large size samples

MY OPINION – E-P2 looks great but with less DR than other two. X1 is also very good as expected and the Sony is also good at ISO 400. Other than the distortion with the Sony, it all looks good.

Next Up, 1600 and 3200 ISO

CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER VIEW AND 100% CROP

ISO 1600 and then ISO 3200 – first up, the Olympus E-P2 – There was some light coming in but not much. I had low shutter speeds at ISO 1600 when wide open at 2.8.

SAMPLES FROM EACH AT 1600 AND 3200!

E-P2 – 1600

E-P2 3200

Now the Leica X1 at ISO 1600 and 3200

NEX-3 – ISO 1600 and then 3200

Click on the images for the full size OOC Jpegs

This one was messed up as my thumb hit the exposure wheel by accident on the NEX-3 and set a negative exposure comp – This happened twice with the NEX and I am starting to think this is a flaw in the design. I put it up here anyway.

I wish I had the Samsung NX10 on hand for t his as I have been seeing some really great things from that camera in regards to IQ, HIGH ISO and color. I may be able to get one soon to try out but until I can I am naming the Leica X1 the champ for high ISO and overall IQ. It’s also the most expensive. Seems the E-P2 comes in last for high ISO and IQ at high ISO and the Sony is held back due to its lens…maybe. More soon with Part 3 which will feature real photos shot with each and my final results.

Thanks for reading!

UPDATE – A couple poeple have asked for me  to try out the “Handheld Twilight Mode” on the NEX-3 as this will provide great low light quality. You lose control over aperture, shutter speed and ISO and the camera takes over BUT it does indeed work well. Here is a shot of a low light area, handheld. The camera chose ISO 5000 and took a series of 5 shots to stack together. You lose detail, but also lose noise.

Also, a few of you have e-mailed me defending the Sony for some reason. First of all, I have not even reviewed the Sony yet, just made some remarks about things I noticed like the lens distortion, dial that is easily moved and therefore settings get changed (on the NEX-3) and the fact that you have to dig into a menu to change settings or search for a scene mode for low light. With these little nitpicks, its still a fine camera for $549 with lens. Twilight mode works as advertised and I will use this more more on the NEX-% that should arrive to me tomorrow.

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Jul 042010
 

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More thoughts and images on the Leica X1 by Steve Huff

I took the leap and purchased a Leica X1 a few days ago. I knew I would eventually wind up with one somehow because I was sort of smitten with it during my review.  It may not be the quickest or most technologically advanced camera when it comes to bells and whistles (which is something I like about it) but one thing is for sure, the image quality is gorgeous for it’s size and the beauty is also in it’s simplicity, which is a Leica thing. One reason I enjoy Leica so much is that simplicity. A body, a lens, a dial and a shutter button. The X1 has a menu system but its very very simple and all on one page.

The X1 may not be a speed demon, but it looks so good it should be illegal :)

I guess I am a sucker for the “Leica Look” and wether you agree with me or not, there is such a thing. I spent all morning going over old photos that I have shot through the years with various cameras and I could always spot the Leica shots from the others. I found that there is also a “Canon Look” and a “NIkon Look” when it comes  to digital files and each system has its own way of rendering an image and presenting the color, contrast and feel of the image. It’s true. The Leica X1 will not give you the look of something shot with an M and a 50 1.4 but it will give you the brilliance, the detail, and even some glow at certain times. The micro-contrast is high and colors are rich.

ISO 1600 – closest focus – f/2.8 – Some PP in CS3. Selective sharpening, dodging and B&W conversion

another at ISO 1600, no PP, just a straight B&W conversion using Silver Efex Pro – f/2.8


next up…ISO 3200 – f/2.8 – NO PP at all, this is a straight from camera image (color was on vivid) – The room was actually sort of dark, but the X1 seemed to add light like many Leica lenses do with an M camera.

another iso 3200 image.

and finally, just testing out the spot metering….

Nothing fancy here, just a few more shots of my family. I have to thank my son for his continued patience with me. Its been so hot here lately (AZ heat sucks in summer) that I have not been able to get out and get any interesting shots, but he always makes  them interesting for me anyway :)

More thoughts on the X1 and how Leica can improve it with an X2:

After using the X1 again after many months of not even seeing one I have come to appreciate it even more for its qualities, but also realized there is lots of room for improvement. Just wanted to say I love the camera, but there are a few things that NEED fixing.

  • The battery door should be much sturdier for a $200o Leica compact. There have been reports from owners about the door sticking out, and mine does this as well when a bettery is loaded. I would love to see a sturdy door with a nice metal latch closing it tight. The way it is now, it is a flaw and one where dust or moisture could get into the camera.
  • I hate to say it but I have become a believer in HD video capabilities and feel they should be in all cameras these days. I use the video all the time in my Oly as that is how I do my videos for the site. Since the X1 does not have video, I have to keep an Oly E-P2 on hand for that. If the X1 had video it would be even better. My crystal ball tells me the next X will have HD video, but it may be a while as the ball is fuzzy.
  • I also feel (as does everyone else) that Leica needs to get the AF up to speed, and they also know this. I think they will in the next X, but again, I have no inside info here. Just a guess. I would not have bought an X1 if I knew an X2 was on the way :)
  • Offer it in black and grey. It’s like a mini M in many ways, so why not a black paint X1/2 along with a Grey? Would be cool IMO.
  • As good as the IQ is, it could be improved with a better/faster lens. If  they can get an f2 lens on the X series I would be drooling. Get the ISO up to 6400 and that would be sweet. Imagine a Leica f2 lens with even better high ISO.
  • So, beef up the build and battery door, add HD video, speed up AF, improve battery life, offer black and grey and speed up the lens and I feel this would be an “X” instant classic. Oh, and make it $1695 while you are at it! ha ha…

So even with those “improvement” ideas I still love the X1 as it is. Many call it a glorified P&S but it is more than that if Image Quality is what counts the most. I have never shot with a point and shoot that gave me results like this :)

I love the way it feels when strapped around me, and the strap it comes with it is beautiful. Is it expensive for what it is? Sure, but again, NOT really. It’s IQ is superior to any compact I have tried in regards to color, noise, and detail. It’s also gorgeous  to look at and hold..it’s a Leica! While you can get the oddball Sony NEX 5 with lens for $700, or an Oly E-P2 which is much more versatile and solid feeling for $1000 with lens and EVF, or even the superb Ricoh which gives the X1 a run for the money in the IQ and versatility  dept, the X1 is all about the image quality, simplicity, size and beauty. It’s hard to understand it until you own one. From its presentation packaging to it’s design, the X1 gives you that pride of ownership you often get with the finer things in life.

Me, I am looking forward to what the X2 will bring and I KNOW there will be an X2 eventually as the X1 was/is a hit for Leica and they usually start working on the next model immediately. I would bet anything that an X2 and even an M10 is already in the works and my fuzzy crystal ball sees a 2012 release for both! Ha ha…

Mr. Leica Dealer extraordinaire sells these X1′s and he sometimes has them in Stock. I know one reader and guest writer of this site, Amy Medina bought hers from Ken and he got her one in a matter of 1-2 days. You can e-mail him here if interested, and remember, I get no money from Ken for recommending him. I do so because he is AWESOME! B&H Photo also sells the X1 but I have yet to see it in stock. BUYING anything from B&H after following a link here WILL help me fund this website :)

Jun 092010
 

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Most of you have seen my (long) review of the Leica X1 but today Amy Medina sent me her short but sweet thoughts on shooting the X1 after buying one of her own. Amy has been shooting with a Leica M8 for quite some time and it sounds like she loves her new X1, quirks and all :)

My thoughts on the Leica X1…By Amy Medina

So I recently bought one. I’d been thinking about it for a while with my hesitation being the fixed lens, but seeing how 28-50mm has really become a sweet spot for me, I decided to go for it.

The Good: The camera itself is beautiful. It is small and light but still feels well-made. I’ve heard complaints about the dials on top, but I haven’t really had any issue with them getting knocked out of position. They are certainly not as stiff-feeling as on the M8, but they do click into position.

I like the ergonomics of the camera. The way it seamlessly goes into shutter-priority or aperture-priority mode is brilliant, and makes switching into full-manual-exposure mode very easy (which you’ll read below is important). ISO is one button away. The shutter is virtually silent.

Image quality is outstanding! I was nothing short of amazed when I sat at the computer to review my first batch of X1 photos. The way the camera renders color is wonderful, and the files have this fantastically smooth but sharp quality to them. And, the 35mm FOV is perfect for me.

All of this makes the next batch of comments a little easier to swallow…

The Bad: Auto-Focus is indeed slow. What you’ve read about it already is true. If you’re coming from a manual-focus M camera it probably won’t bother you. However, if you expect it to perform like a GH-1 or dSLR you will be disappointed. It reminds me a lot of the Olympus E-P1 before the firmware updates.

The Ugly: a camera in the year 2010 should not lack AEL (auto-exposure lock). As it stands now, there is no easy way to separate the focus spot and the metering spot; at least not while you are shooting in the shutter-priority or aperture-priority modes. Thankfully, it is fairly easy, as mentioned earlier, to adjust your exposure manually, but combine the slow auto-focus with lack of AEL and frustration can brew.

The handling overall can be a bit slow. Reviewing your photos in playback can get pokey. Getting back to shooting a photo isn’t as quick as it should be. Waking from sleep can be downright painful.

And the battery life is awful. I’m lucky to get 100-125 shots on one charge. To be fair, I’ve been told by other X1 users that this will improve after the battery has been through a few charge cycles, but I won’t be going anywhere without an extra battery.

Conclusion: Focus on the “Good” if you are the type of shorter that is used to working slowly and wants amazing image quality in a small and nearly silent package. For my purposes and my style of photography the X1 is actually a good fit and, though it may not sound like it with some of my criticism, I really have enjoyed shooting with it the vast majority of the time.

Focus on the “bad” or the “ugly” if you’re considering a GF-1 or E -PL1 because of their snappy performance. The X1 kills them both in the image-quality department, especially at any ISO higher than 200, but it’s no contest if you need a camera closer to dSLR speed.

I am holding out hope that a firmware update from Leica can improve on some of the “bad” and the “ugly” … And if they do, I’ll be sure to come back and update my thoughts!

In the meantime, I’ll still be shooting my PAD project primarily with my Leica cameras. .. my M8 and my new X1. The “good” absolutely outweighs the other stuff for me…

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