Jan 102016

Zeiss Sonnar C ZM Lens for sale, As new in box! $680!

SOLD!!! The Sonnar is SOLD!

1st come, 1st serve! This is a 2 week old Zeiss Sonnar C Zm lens (Leica Mount). Works amazing on any Sony A7 body, the Leica M or the Leica SL. You can see my recent report on it here.  This is a very unique lens, and so much different from just about any modern 50 out there. It has the creamy bokeh, 3D pop and creamy color that Zeiss is known for. The lens sells new for $1200, and I am selling it, as new in box, unregistered for $680 as a “reader appreciation” special. Every now and then when I sell a personal lens or camera I offer it at a much lower price than normal, so if you want this one, in black, in box, $680 via paypal will get it ($20 shipping).

If you want it, 1st one to email me and pay gets it. EMAIL ME HERE if interested. 

**I also have a Leica 50 Summicron (pre APO, no 6-bit) in leather Leica case (latest version before APO) for $1250 and a 90 Elmarit 2.8 (latest slide out hood version before it was discontinued) ASPH I am selling for a friend at $1250. I have them in hand and both are a 9 condition. Just no boxes or 6 bit coding. This is actually my 2nd fave 90mm lens next to the $3600 90 APO. $1250 is a steal for this guy**


a few shots with this lens on the Sony A7RII and the Leica SL. 






Jan 022016


A look at the Zeiss 50 Sonnar ZM on the Leica SL

By Steve Huff

Ahhh the Zeiss 50 Sonnar C ZM lens. A sort of “classic” in the way it renders and draws, especially wide open with its classical bokeh and subject isolation. I reviewed this lens around 7-8 years ago at my original website and I loved this lens on my Leica M8 and M9 back in the day for its unique way that it would render a portrait. My original review is long gone, but my follow-up on the M 240 and MM can be seen HERE.

Not everyone is a fan of this lens as it has a way of creating bokeh that can, at times, be nervous and odd. But on many occasions, it can create an image with gorgeous beauty in the way it will deliver the subject and background, usually allowing the subject to POP off the screen.

The Leica SL with 50 Sonnar. Nope, can’t shoot THIS lens on a Nikon or Canon ;) Works amazing on the SL. Click image for better version..


After testing this lens on the M8, M9 and 240 I wondered what it would be like on the Leica SL. I feel the SL sensor is a mix between the M9 and M 240 with much more contrast and pop than the 240 but much nicer color than the M9 (IMO). The SL feels like a 3rd gen product and while it is a first gen, the camera is amazingly intuitive and delivers consistent results. Since I love the 50mm focal length, I am testing all of my fave M 50’s on the SL this year and will be doing little follow ups like this all year with the SL and Leica M lenses. The  fact is, these lenses render much differently on each Leica camera. The way a 50 Lux renders on an M8 is not the way it renders on an M9 or M 240 or SL. So with the little Zeiss, I wanted to see just what the Sonnar gave me and I have to say, I really really love what it can do, though it has some negatives I will touch on in a few…

Good ol’ Olive. She has learned to sit still and pose for me as I have been shooting pictures of her since she was a puppy. This was at night, in my bedroom, shot at f/1.5


Last week I wrote a refresh on the Leica 50 APO. The world’s best 50mm lens with the world highest 50mm price of $8200. The Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar, luckily, comes in at around $1200 and it is worth every cent of that $1200, especially when you compare it to other Leica big money lenses. But those who ADORE something like a 50 APO may not jive with the 50 Sonnar as it is much different. Expect soft corners in detail landscape shots, expect Bokeh that is a tad busy at times and get ready to take a step back as the close focus distance is 1 meter, not the usual .7 or .5 meters of many M lenses.

Ashwin Rao during his visit to AZ. We hung out all day with Jurt Kamka and shot with SL’s and an S006 (Kurt’s). It was a Leica day for sure ;) 


Kurt Kamka talking with Ashwin. This is an OOC JPEG, f/1.5 


Just a cowboy at Goldfield Ghost Town in AZ, shot wide open at 1.5. This should put to rest the myth that this lens is soft at 1.5. On the SL or A7RII, there is no softness issues as focus can be spot on every time.


If you are OK with the 1m minimum focus and the unique classical bokeh, the 50 Sonnar is quite nice. Some would say “special” as it is for many, one of those “artistic” lenses allowing you to create very unique photos as nothing renders like a 50 Sonnar. The C in the name stands for COMPACT and CLASSIC. This lens is tiny, and on the SL it worked out fantastic. Focusing with the EVF was a breeze and very quick and easy. I have gotten the hang of focusing with the SL and M lenses without using magnification and I can be quite quick if I need be.

Saw this poodle who had sandals on and snapped even though I blurred out the sandals! Even so, the lens shows it can be quite sharp in the center of  the frame ;) 


Ashwin Rao and Kurt Kamka. Two names you probably know if you have been in the Leica community for a while. Both great guys with a serious passion for photography. I shot these wide open with an ND filter. 



The Zeiss 5o Sonnar is a lens that everyone who shoots and M or SL should at least try. While it it not technical perfection like a 50 APO, and while it is not quite like a 50 Lux in character or bokeh, it does render so pleasantly at times I feel like I want one around at all times for when I want that look that this lens can give (but of course I do not NEED one). In some ways, I prefer this to the APO or any 50 made. In other ways, I do not but even so, it’s a lens one can use for low light or portraits or street as it will offer you a look that no other modern production lens can. At times, it appears to have the bokeh of an f/1.2 lens and I have seen some call it the poor mans Noctilux for the dreamy cool look it can give, but I would never compare it to the Noct as its not a Noct.

I would say that if you want a fast 50, and do not want to spend $4000 and up, take a long hard look at the Zeiss 50 Sonnar C and see if it works for YOU. I can tell you that it does very well on the SL. It’s a lovely lens. Jewel like in its build and feel and as I said, under $1200.


















You can buy the 50 Sonnar ZM at B&H Photo HERE.  This is where mine came from ;) More on this lens from me can be seen HERE!

Jul 062015

The Zeiss Batis 25 f/2 and 85 f/1.8 Lens Review!

By Steve Huff

Here we are again with a couple of lenses made by Zeiss for the Sony FE (A7) system/series of cameras. As many of you know who have been following me for years, these days I really enjoy and love shooting my Sony A7II and A7s cameras. With so many amazing enthusiast and pro level camera out today, it is a tough choice on what to use, especially when you are a reviewer who gets these camera and lenses sent to you on an almost weekly basis!

LOVELY colors from the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2, up close focusing (Min 0.2 meters). Sony A7II, lens was at f/2. Must click on the image to see it correctly!


But even so, a couple things have remained constant for me. I love the new Sony cameras and lenses they have been putting out for 2-3 years now. I feel with the full frame sensors and fantastic lenses available they are the TOP Mirrorless system camera as of July 2015. For me, Sony beats all others for the mirrorless title with Olympus coming in 2nd place for me with the E-M1 and E-M5II. Lagging behind (for me) are Samsung (even though the NX1 is a phenomenal camera) and the others with Leica making a nice come back with the special and amazing Q. (my review of the Q here).

But today and all month I feel it’s going to be a Sony fest as the A7RII is coming, the new RX100 IV is IN HAND and the new Zeiss BATIS lenses have arrived to me and I have been shooting them for the last 1-2 weeks. My impression? Well, they are designed and look like mini OTUS lenses and perform 85% as well. The BATIS line for FE is stunning and with the electronic LED display that shows you focus distance when in manual focus mode, we are getting a special set of lenses for those who are very picky about the quality of their glass.

Must click for larger and sharper version! Another with the 25 at f/2 on the A7II


I remember when all the rage was the Zeiss Touit line for APS-C. This was not very long ago yet feels like it was for some reason. The Touit line was good, but not my favorite set of lenses. Then came the OTUS lenses for Canon and Nikon but for me, they are just too large for daily use. Pro use, 100%. Enthusiast? For this one, those are too large and way too costly. Then came the Loxia line and MAN OH MAN I love these. The 35 and 50 f/2 Loxia’s are manual focus only and as close as one can get to a Leica M mount for their Sony FE mount. Small, solid, smooth and gorgeous in build, style and rendering. The 50 Loxia may be my #1 fave lens on the A7 series.

So with the Loxias receiving critical acclaim, and the only complaint from some users being “it’s not auto focus” Zeiss decided to create the Batis line which would be Auto Focus Zeiss lenses, and these two lenses they started with are right here, the 25 and 85. The 25mm is a Distagon design and an f/2 lens. It is not as solid feeling as the little Loxia but it feels great anyway, with a nice OTUS like styling to them. The Batis lenses come with hoods and the AF on the 25 is rather quick. The 85 will hunt a little in lower light but overall it is pretty quick as well.

The 85 at 1.8 on the A7II, just a casual snapshot, she did not even know I was taking a shot until the moment I took it and the lens grabbed focus and nailed the color as well. 


Another wide open at f/1.8…


..and another!


After shooting the 85 for a little while I started to adore the rendering. VERY sharp at your focus point and CREAM CITY after that when shooting at f/1.8. The color and contrast are 100% ZEISS with those bold yet gentle blues, nice yellows and a richness that comes from shooting Zeiss glass. I remember shooting loads of Zeiss ZM lenses on my Leica M8, M9 and M 240 and they all had this exact character that I see here. Much different from Leica or Sony’s rendering. It’s what Zeiss is known for and yes, all manufactures of lenses have a house “look”. From Olympus to Samsung  to Sony to Zeiss to Leica to Canon and Nikon.

Batis 25 at f/2 – never be afraid to ask someone if you can take their portrait. I have a 99.5% rate of success, and usually the subject is more than happy, and a little excited to let you take their photo. The girl below was pouring my beer and I said “do you mind if I take your photo” – she said “SURE!” but she did not look at me. So I shot one of her pouring and then asked her to give me a nice  happy smile, and she did. 


Punching Bag with leaving the shutter speed slower to catch the motion/action of the shot. The 25 at f/2


Glass is the heart of your camera system.

Many times I will get people asking me questions about what cameras to buy. They usually will insist on a kit lens of sorts even though they ask about more expensive cameras like the Sony A7 or Fuji X or Olympus E-M1. To me, if you are going to invest over $1000 in a camera, you should always invest in good glass, or lenses, for your system. Lenses are the paintbrush, the pencil, THE one thing that delivers the most change to the rendering of the image. WAY more so  than a sensor or internal processing. The lens you choose will decide if your image will be sharp, soft, colorful or dull, has high contrast or low or has a pastel like color instead of bold harsh color. Some lenses use cheap glass, some use exotic glass. The lens is the most personal choice one can make when buying a camera system, at least IMO.




So if it were me, and I was going to shell out for a Sony A7II or A7RII, you can bet your bootie I would buy the Zeiss line of lenses (Loxia or Batis) or some of the better Sony FE glass like the 35 1.4, 16-35, or 90 Macro. I would avoid the kit zooms or lower quality zooms as you will never reach the true IQ potential of the system with cheap glass.

25mm Batis at f/2 – A7II


The Zeiss Batis line, being Auto Focus and gorgeous in all aspects of image quality, would be some of my top picks for most A7 users, and especially for those who ordered the A7RII as that camera is BEASTLY. It’s a resolution monster, a video monster and will be one hell of an amazing enthusiast or pro camera. These lenses would compliment that A7RII perfectly, and I for one can not wait to try these lenses on that body (of which I should have very very soon).


During my time with the Batis lenses, I had no issues with focus, feel, build, or performance. The only niggle I had was when taking the 85 1.8 out in the night, as the focus would hunt a tad in low light. That is when I switched it over to manual focus and shot. Using manual focus works very well due to the nice EVF in my Sony A7 cameras as well as the smooth action of the Batis focus ring. The on board OLED display also will show you a distance scale, electronically. Yep, pretty cool if you ask me!

Video Look!

My video on the Batis Lenses. See them on the camera bodies and hear my thoughts!


No point in discussing sharpness with these guys, they are SHARP. Plenty sharp.

These were out of cam JPEGS! Click them to see  the crops wide open. 



Compared To?

With Sony FE we now have a few great semi wide angle lenses to choose from. The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 F/4, the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, and the Sony 28 f/2 are all great lenses with the 28 f/2 being the cheapest of the lot, and while it has some distortion that needs fixing (which is done in camera for JPEGS) the Sony 28 f/2 is fantastic in IQ. I will say that it does not quite have the micro- contrast, color and pop of the Batis 25, but even so, at $450 it is around 3X less in cost than the Batis 25 which comes in at $1299. THAT is a pretty big price difference but you do see it and feel it with the Batis.

Sony 28 FE and Batis 25 side by side

Below is a side by side between the two..and you may not see much difference in this shot, but it is there. Click on the image to see them larger and you can see much more micro contrast in the Zeiss Batis shot, more detail and an overall more crisp and distortion free image. The Zeiss is better, but if it is $800 depends on you ;) I’d say if you want the best of the best for your Sony FE, in a wide angle lens then take a serious look at the Zeiss.



The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 is more of an ultra wide and at f/2 will not give you the aperture speed of the Batis. The Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 is MUCH larger and heavier and is not nearly as wide as the 25 Batis, so I see these two as different tools.

For me, the best IQ you can get as of July 2015 for your Sony FE system in a native mount and in a semi wide-angle (between 21 and 28) is the Batis 25 f/2 and because it will focus as close as 0.2 meters you can get pretty close to your subject, creating some Bokeh effect and you subject will be sharp.

The next FIVE shots are all from my fave of the Batis lot, the 25 f/2. I say it is my fave as I used it more as I found it more useful. I enjoy getting close to my subject and while I feel 21 is a tad too wide and 28 is getting close to 35, I am finding the 25 to be perfect for my style of shooting. I used to own the Zeiss 25 ZM for Leica mount and reviewed it here YEARS ago. Loved that lens which is probably why I love the Batis version. 







The Batis 85 f/2 vs the Mitakon 85 1.2

Another lens choice for the native FE mount is the Mitakon Speedmaster 85 1.2. I reviewed that lens a week or two ago HERE. It is larger, heavier and goes to f/1.2 BUT the Zeiss is a better lens with better color and pop. Even so, the Mitakon is not so bad, not at all. So may even prefer it! ME? I prefer the Zeiss for the smaller size and lighter weight. I feel Zeiss did a great job with the design and keeping them more short than long. But take a look at the comparisons below, click them for the full 100% crop to be seen.





My final word on the Batis line of lenses? 

When I heard Zeiss was sending me these two lenses for review I was excited, and believe me, today after 7-8 years of writing these reviews full time, it takes a lot to get me excited. Many of you may not be aware but I get SO MUCH stuff sent to me for  review that never gets reviewed because it just doesn’t excite me or motivate me. I end up not reviewing many items because if it does not motivate me to go shoot, I can not recommend it to my readers here. While most sites would just go write a negative review, I just skip as I am not about negativity or spending hours writing to tell you I do not like a certain product.

So if I review it, it means I love it and really enjoy it.

As for these lenses, they deliver on the hype and promise, the really do. I have not used a finer 25mm lens and in the world of 75-85mm lenses, the choices are plentiful, no doubt. Even so, the Zeiss 85 f/1.8 Sonnar is up there with the finest I have used and my faves in life have been the Canon 85 1.2, Nikon 85 1.4, and Zeiss 85 f/2 for Leica Mount. This 85mm delivers the detail, creaminess, nice colors and perfect contrast for those portrait sessions where you want that Zeiss WOW.

OF ALL the lenses I have here for Sony FE, and I have a load of them, my daily driver would be the Zeiss Batis 25 and Zeiss Loxia 50. I’d throw in the Batis 85 for portraits and use my Sony 16-35 for my ultra wide. That would be all I would ever need, and all of these lenses are top notch 100%. I may also throw in the 35 1.4 Sony/Zeiss for when I wanted that 35mm FOV with some magic.

The Batis line rocks my friends. If you need Auto Focus, the are the way to go. If you would prefer a smaller lens, the Loxia line is stunning as well but manual focus only. Either way, you will get that Zeiss POP and BAM!

1st Three from the 85 f/1.8 all at 1.8




Next few all from the 25..






Words from Zeiss on the Batis Lenses:

On the 25 f/2

“Pairing the tested Distagon concept with contemporary functionality, the Batis 25mm f/2 Lens from Zeiss is a wide-angle prime designed specifically for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras. The innovative design of this lens features an OLED display that highlights the focus distance and depth of field range for quickly recognizing your focusing parameters, and its autofocus performance is benefitted by linear motors for fast, smooth performance. Four double-sided aspherical elements within a floating elements design help to control aberrations and distortions throughout the focusing range and contribute to even edge-to-edge sharpness and illumination, and a T* anti-reflective coating reduces flare and ghosting for increased contrast and color neutrality. Ideal for architecture, landscape, and interior photography, this lens’ 82° angle of view pairs with a 7.9″ minimum focusing distance for producing creative perspectives and unique close-up imagery. Additionally, for working in inclement conditions, the lens also features a dust- and weather-sealed construction.”

On the 85 1.8

“Updating a tried-and-true optical design for use with full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras, the Batis 85mm f/1.8 Lens from Zeiss is a portrait-length, short telephoto lens featuring a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture for greater focus control and enhanced low-light shooting. The innovative design of this lens features an OLED display that highlights the focus distance and depth of field range for quickly recognizing your focusing parameters, and its autofocus performance is benefitted by linear motors for fast, smooth performance. Pairing the Sonnar concept with a floating elements design, this 85mm f/1.8 is also particularly adept at controlling aberrations throughout the focusing range, while a T* anti-reflective coating minimizes flare and ghosting for ensured color accuracy and heightened contrast. Rounding out the feature-set, this lens incorporates optical image stabilization to minimize the appearance of camera shake when working with slower shutter speeds and a dust- and weather-sealed construction lends itself to shooting in less-than-ideal environments.”

Yes, the 85 1.8 has Image Stabilization built in. 



What about the negatives?

During my use I had nothing but fantastic results with focus, image quality and overall results. Never had distortion issues or CA issues or any issues. Really.



Many have asked me to start doing ratings for my reviews so I will start here with a BANG. BUT keep in mind, if I rate a Sony FE Mount lens, that rating is compared to other similar FE mount lenses, in this case the Sony 28 FE, the Sony 16-35 FE and the Mitakon 85 1.2.

BATIS 25: I will give the Batis 25 f/2 FIVE STARS as to me it is the best semi wide/wide I have used (28 and under) for the Sony FE system. The IQ, color, sharpness, size and weight are all phenomenal. Add in the weather sealing, the OLED display, dour side aspherical elements and it’s close focus capability, along with its dust and weather resistant design and this guy gets FIVE STARS! Yes, it is expensive at $1299 but for me, worth it in every way, and hey, it’s a Zeiss.


BATIS 85 f/1.8: I gave the 85 1.8 4 1/2 stars and that is due to the only weakness I found, the AF gets slow and hunts in lower light, as in club lighting or low level concert lighting. Other than that this is a a beautiful 85mm lens and the IQ and color stand out to me and is up there with the best 85 fast primes ever made for 35mm. Image stabilized and loaded with all the good stuff, this is one hell of a portrait prime. Sure there are loads of 85’s you can convert to use on the Sony but the Batis is a better option for me, as I always will prefer NATIVE lenses when there are good options.

Where to buy and How Much?

The Zeiss 25 f/2 comes in at $1299, and you can pre-order/order it at B&H Photo or PopFlash.com 

The Zeiss Batis 85 f/1.8 comes in at $1199 and can be pre-ordered or ordered at B&H Photo or PopFlash.com 

I also highly recommend the Zeiss Loxia line HERE. 




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Jul 042014

RX1 / Spiders in Australia

By Matthias Wäckerlin


Shooting proper Macro with the Sony RX1 with the superb Carl Zeiss Sonnar 2/35? YES, you can!

My name is Matthias Waeckerlin (Switzerland) and I have been living now for 2 years with my family in Camden near Sydney.
I’m a “stay at home dad” looking after our little children. Previously, I was working as a professional photographer.
My HEAVY Nikon gear, about 8kg, did not pass the check-in at the Zurich airport, too heavy, was the answer of the lady behind the counter! So, I had just my Sony RX1 around my neck and I never regret it since today. I never missed my Nikon. The RX1 is the best camera I ever had: small – light – solid – outstanding full frame quality – quiet (no shutter sound). The only drawback is the autofocus. I hope it will be better in the new model.

I did many pictures for all kinds of settings. And I never had an issue with this little monster.
As you can see high quality macro shooting is also possible with the RX1. Sometimes it needs a bit of patience, some spiders are very fast. The best method to get these little monsters into focus is using the manual focus with focus peaking and then moving the camera slightly forward and backward until the spiders get sharp. I set the macro mode to the closest distance. The challenge was to catch the spider when they had a short rest. Some spiders were sitting in their web, then the wind was the challenge. I set the camera to the M and A mode for all of my pictures, used JPG option and did the editing in Lightroom. Most of the pictures have ISO between 50 and 400. Just one has ISO 1600. No tripod and no flash.

The amazing quality of the 24MP C-MOS sensor allows to crop the images to a little piece.
This is still big enough to view it in the Web and in Lightroom. I won’t print a poster…

Best regards




AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Nepean Lodge Unit 8A - 335 Werombi Road, SPINNE



17 Broughton Street, AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Redback, SPINNE

17 Broughton Street, AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Huntsman, SPINNE




AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Nepean Lodge Unit 8A - 335 Werombi Road, SPINNE

Apr 172014

Looking Back to the Zeiss ZM 50mm Sonnar Day

By Zaki Jaihutan

Dear Steve and Brandon, thanks for providing the opportunity to share my nostalgic moment with the beautiful Zeiss ZM 50mm sonnar f1.5 or the Sonnar.

Not long ago I traded my Sonnar (together with one other lens) with the legenday leica 50mm summilux ASPH. I’ve been wanting to get my hand on the Lux for quite some time, it has its own strong rendition different to that of the Sonnar (perhaps “slight”, but it’s there).

I am not going to provide you with comparison between the two lenses. Not only that I dislike technical comparison (though I admit this type of comparison has its own use), but I also like to see a lens for what it is, its overall feel, its drawing if you like, how the lens work with my camera and myself. I am not good in giving objective explanation about this and prefer picture to do the talking. My acquisition of the Lux is a pure aesthetic choice (not to mention the opportunity to obtain the Lux at a very acceptable price), and while I am happy with the result I get from the Lux, I cannot say that the Sonnar is inferior to it. I don’t want to sound like I’m defending an ex girlfriend, but the Lux and the Sonnar are simply two different beauties.

When I first venture into the difficult world of rangefinder by purchasing my M9, the Sonnar is my first lens, and it has been my go to lens until I got my 35 lux ASPH about 8 months ago. I choose the Sonnar not just due to price consideration (voigtlander can give you a more acceptable price range with a good quality glass), but from the result of its images, their artistic feel, and….guess what? From the possible problem in using this lens due to its famous “focus-shift” issue. I was a total rookie in the rangefinder world (which I still am, mine you I started using leica M9 for only around two and a half years  ), and I thought, gee, why not challenge myself more? It just sounds cool, using tricky lens to get a certain artistic look.

Believe it or not, I don’t find any focus shift issue. Most pictures I took are spot on where I want them to be. Perhaps its me that is less critical? Maybe the objects I choose do not reveal this issue (smaller object might show this perhaps, e.g. pencil points or something like that?). I remember someone said somewhere in the web that he did not get any focus shift issue, and someone responded that is impossible!!! Well, maybe my lens, or my camera, was already adjusted …or maybe, someone had skillfully painted a different lens and put the mark ZM sonnar to the lens in order to fool me. Maybe, mabe and maybe.

Anyway, looking back at what I can get from the Sonnar, its imperfection which add up to its artistic look, its “drawing” as many people like to call it, I feel a bit nostalgic and would like to share what the Sonnar has done to my worldview. I realize many samples are already there, but I guess additional view to enjoy are always fun. Perhaps this can reignite interest to this classic lens (and an option to consider for those who like to get a good quality 50mm glass with their M, but finds it hard to justify purchasing the uber expensive Lux). All of these were taken with either the M9 or the new M. Most of them can also be seen at my flickr site at HYPERLINK “http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaihutan/” http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaihutan/

See if you can feel its unique soft way of blending the subject into soft focus, and find it adorable. Enjoy.

With kind regards,
Zaki Jaihutan









Feb 172014


My favorite ND filter for fast Leica lenses!

Finally! I found THE ND filter to own for my fast Leica glass (Thanks Ken Hansen)! Yes my friends, in the past I have owned many ND filters and I always had to figure out which one I would get. When shooting a Summilux lens or Noctilux lens an ND filter is MANDATORY if you want to shoot your ones wide open where they were designed and optimized to be shot. Over the last few years I have had MANY e-mails come in asking me “which ND filter should I get”..and I am happy to say that the one I own now is hands down my #1 favorite that I have ever owned/used.

It is a made in Germany Heliopan Variable ND filter that gives you a range to work with..from 0.3 all the way up to 1.8 or from 1 to 6 stops. This means you can use this single one ND filter for all of your ND filter needs. From slight brightness to brutal harsh light (like I shot the images in below), this ND filter will give you what you need with a smooth twist of the front ring. When Ken Hansen told me about it I had to give it a shot.


If you are not familiar with the purpose of an ND filter I will break it down for you very quickly.

Let’s say you love shooting your Leica and Noctilux but you love shooting that lens wide open at f/0.95. If it is sunny outside or the light is bright you will not be able to shoot wide open because the shutter speed in your 9 or M 240 only goes to 1/4000s. This means that without an ND filter you will have to stop down the lens to f/4 or f/5.6 or in some situations even f/8.

With an ND filter in place you can shoot that lens wide open as the filter blocks some of the light. With this particular filter you can adjust how much light gets let in and it is marked from 1-10. I tested this filter in the super harsh mid day sun of Phoenix AZ and my filter was usually between #3 and #6 with the Zeiss 50 Sonnar at f/1.5.


Using this filter it allowed me to shoot wide open to retain that classic Zeiss Sonnar look that disappears once the lens is stopped down. I shot the SLR Magic Hyperprime 0.95 M lens a couple of years ago with an ND filter as well, and all of the images shot in that report were with a Leica M9, the images below were shot with an M 240 and the Zeiss.

You can also use an ND filter if you want to shoot at longer shutter speeds, for example, a running waterfall. The ND will block the light to your sensor and allow you to drag out that shutter for as long as you need.

Anyway, this is an amazing ND filter and is the only one you will need for ANY situation. No need for 2-4 ND’s, just one. The build is superb and of very high quality, the ring to adjust the strength of the filter is smooth as silk and this filter is available from Ken Hansen in the two sizes any Leica shooter would need. 46mm (35 Summilux, 50 Summilux) or 60mm (Noctilux 0.95). These filters are NOT cheap but no good ND filter is. I believe this one goes for $260 but I found it to be a very worthwhile investment because it is the last ND I will ever need and will fit any 46mm lens I attach to my camera.


I tested it with the Zeiss 50 ZM Sonnar which also has a 46mm filter thread and the filter presented no issues or problems at all. The Zeiss ZM Sonnar is a very unique lens and when shot wide open at f/1.5 it almost resembles a Noctilux in its rendering. Not quite, but close. The best part is that the Sonnar comes in at around $1100. B&H is back-ordered but Tony at PopFlash has one or two in stock right now (in silver) for anyone looking for this now legendary classic lens.

You can e-mail Ken Hansen here if you want one or have a question. ([email protected]) Not sure how many he has but he did tell me he had a “few” available in 46mm and 60mm filter thread sizes and I recommend this filter 100% for ANY users of these filter size fast lenses (Leica). 

Below are the images I shot with the ND attached, all with the Zeiss Sonnar 50mm ZM and all wide open at f/1.5 at the local Ren Fair here in AZ. BTW, it was almost 90 degrees in mid Feb and the sun was HARSH. AZ mid day sun sucks for taking photos, but I purposely took these at the worst time to test this filter, which did fantastic. 




















Apr 112013

Zeiss 50 Sonnar on Leica Monochrom

A new look at the Zeiss 50mm C Sonnar T 1.5 Lens

By Steve Huff

Note: all images in this post were shot with the Zeiss Sonnar 1.5 ZM lens and the Leica M 240 except one image with the Monochrom (which was noted). You can click them for larger versions. 

A Beautiful Old Friend

It was 4-5 years ago when I wrote a review on the Zeiss Sonnar 1.5 Lens, the current model that is still sold by Zeiss for $1200. I originally tested it on the Leica M8 and LOVED it. That old review was hosted on my original website but has since been lost..gone..kaput. So no more old review of the Zeiss Sonnar.

But there’s no need to fear! A review refresher is here! With the new Leica M I have been testing out all kinds of lenses, mainly the 50mm focal length from Leica and Zeiss and I have to say these Zeiss lenses are really beautiful. I recently fell in love with the 50 Planar for its low price and unique signature but remembered the Sonnar from the old M8 days and when I tested it briefly on the Monochrom. The Sonnar is so much different from the Zeiss Planar or Leica Summicron or Leica Summilux that it is worth checking out if you want to make your shots a bit more interesting..or classic..or beautiful. :)

I always embrace “different” :)

The Dynamic Range of the M 240 is superb and mates well with the Sonnar


The Zeiss Sonnar is an old 1930’s design (designed in 1929 by Dr. Ludwig Bertele) and this lens as it is sold today uses the same optical formula as the 1934 version but with new modern coatings for enhanced contrast. This modern version of the classic lens does indeed have the classic look but it also has the Zeiss colors and 3D pop to go along with it, which can get addicting because when you go back to Leica glass it is just not there. Leica renders the image in a much different way, technically better but different colors, bokeh, sharpness, etc. There is a Leica look and a Zeiss look. Each look has their share of fans.

Beautiful Fast

It has a 1.5 aperture for shallow depth of field and is beautifully built as well as sexy to look at. Some of the greatest shots by the masters were shot with Sonnar 50mm designs and this design is just as capable today as it was back then. In a day of modern aspherical and APO lenses things can sometimes start to look too perfect, too clinical and too sharp. By going out on a walk with a lens like the Sonnar you will be guaranteed to come back with shots that look much different and unique to what you would get with your normal 50mm lens.

Nice Zeiss color…


Just a few days ago I revisited the 50 Zeiss Planar, which I adored but even that lens will render a more perfect scene then the Zeiss Sonnar. I argued that it may be wise to own BOTH the Planar and the Sonnar. This way, you get your sharper more perfect look as well as your classic bokeh filled look for just about $2000, or $300 less than a Leica Summicron lens alone :) It’s a win/win.

At $1200 it seems the Sonnar is not cheap but when compared to Leica glass, it is much less expensive in some cases. For example, the Leica Summilux 1.4 comes in at $4000 and yes, the Summilux is the mother of all fast 50’s when it comes to the combo of speed, size, beauty and build. It’s just about the most perfect 50mm lens in existence because it does everything right and never lets you down. The Sonnar is much different because images coming from the Sonnar will not look like what you get from the Summilux ASPH. They will not be perfect, nor modern looking nor will they have the Leica feel.

Part of the beauty of the Sonnar is the flaws and the character that comes along with it. Also, the challenge of shooting it on a digital M body.

Both of these are wide open at 1.5, converted to B&W using Alien Skin Exposure




It’s true. This is a lens you will either love or hate! It just so happens to be very challenging to use and there has been controversy surrounding it since its release. When it was released, some users thought it was a very soft lens wide open and there were statements about it being so soft it appeared dreamy. That could not be further from the truth. This lens is pretty damn sharp wide open but the key is to get the focus right, and using a rangefinder makes it tough because this lens is usually calibrated for use at f/2.8 which means focusing with your rangefinder at 1.5 will not be accurate and will result in a soft “dreamy” look. It is called “Focus Shift”. Keep in mind that this only affects rangefinder cameras and using the rangefinder focusing patch. If you use this lens on a mirrorless system with live view you will not experience focus shift. 

There are simple ways around this issue if you want accurate focus every time at 1.5 though, and if you like the character of the lens it is worth it to put a few minutes into figuring it out.

If you have a Zeiss sonnar set and optimized for f/2.8, it will take you a few minutes to learn how to use it at f/1.5 to be reliable, just as I have when taking the images you see here. These were all mostly shot at 1.5 and captured in one shot using the Rangefinder of the Leica M 240, not live view. They are all in focus where I intended the camera to focus.

The newest copy I have here came from B&H Photo and it appears to me that it is optimized more for f/2 than 1.5 or 2.8 because I can focus in the RF at 1.5 and get a sharp result but if I turn the focus ring a hair clockwise after I line up the RF patch I get super sharp results as you can see in the shot below:


In other words, this copy of the lens is sharp wide open when focusing normally but can get REALLy sharp wide open with one little trick. I basically shot this scene above as a test for 6-7 shots and figured out where my perfect focus was when using the rangefinder, which as stated, was a hair to the right after I lined up the patch. What I mean by this is when I focus normally the shot is a teeny bit soft due to focus shift. If I move the focus barrel a teeny bit more to the right after focusing I will get real spot on focus. If I do this every time I will nail focus every time.

Still, paying $1200 for a lens you have to work with to focus accurately may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it can be worth it because this is one of those lenses some call an “Artists Lens”. The look it gives is unique and super classic. Much like the Noctilux has its own gorgeous signature, the Sonnar has one as well. If it is Bokeh you are after, this lens will give it to you. The image below was a test shot to see Bokeh quality and here it is pretty smooth.

Use it, Learn it, Love It!

This one shot on the Monochrom at ISO 4000 and 1.5



I have seen some who bought this lens give up on it in frustration because they would focus and get soft results. Some users did not know if it was a problem with their eyes or what but this lens has its share of haters and lovers. I am in the lover camp but let me be honest…there are loads of 50mm choices for your M rangefinder and if you can only have ONE 50mm, I would not recommend this one as an only lens because it does offer such a unique look and you may tire of it after a while. The lens also has a 1 meter close focus limitation where lenses like the Leica 50 Lux let you focus closer t0 0.7 meters.

You can own this as  your only 50, and I know a couple of guys that do, but I feel the 50 Planar or Leica is better as an only one lens solution (which is why I went for both). I am now up to four 50mm lenses but I love my 50’s!

If you learn how to use your Sonnar on your camera it will become quick and easy to focus the way it needs to be focused for sharp results at 1.5, and that is where the magic of the lens happens..wide open.

Leica M 240 and B&W conversion


In the world of 50mm rangefinder lenses there are many choices from modern Leica perfection to old classic RF lenses from the past like the Canon 50 1.8 LTM (which I also own) and everything in between. The 50mm is a classic focal length and probably the most popular for rangefinder shooters. My #1 recommendation for a 50mm Lens is money is no object is  the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH or new 50 Summicron APO. If money is an object, and for most of us it is, you can still buy a lens or  two that will not hamper you in any way and still give you gorgeous results. Zeiss ZM glass is just one of those options where you get to pay less but still have that special quality that makes  you say “wow” when you nail a special shot.


The images here were all just test shots around my yard, nothing special at all but it goes to show that a lens like the Sonnar can make things look better than they actually are in some cases. Even a silly shot of some dusty mini blinds (yes, I have now cleaned them after seeing the shot above from my office blinds) have that special Sonnar “look”.


The Zeiss Sonnar is one of those lenses you buy with your heart. Like I already mentioned, you either love it or you hate it. But for me, it is a lens I will always love and have a soft spot for. I guess you can say this lens has a “romantic” quality, and there is nothing wrong with that because we all need a little romance in our lives every now and then :)

You can buy the Zeiss 50 Sonnar at B&H Photo, PopFlash.com or Amazon!

Apr 092013


A new look at the Zeiss ZM 50mm Planar f/2 Lens

This is not a lens review, just a refresher of a lens I reviewed a few years back. The Zeiss Planar has been with me for a few days via LenRentals.com and I have enjoyed it so much I had to write down some thoughts about using it on the Leica M and MM. Enjoy!

The deal of the century..is that not what many of us are always on the lookout for? Well, the Zeiss 50 Planar f/2 lens for Leica M mount may not be the “Deal of the Century” but it is a slam dunk bang for your hard-earned buck if there ever was one. This little 50mm f/2 lens is SUPERB and I reviewed it a few years back on the Leica M9. It is one of my older reviews so it may not be that long or detailed but it does have plenty of samples that were shot on the M9. The good news? It seems to do just as well on the new generation of Leica cameras and in these days of $4000-$10000 Leica lenses it is refreshing to see an under $900 lens perform just as well as its Leica counterpart.

The Zeiss 50 Planar on the Leica Monochrome – click it for 1600 pixel wide version to see how sharp it is at the focus point (whiskers)


I remember this lens and ever since that 2009 review period and ever since then I have toyed with the idea of owning it because I remember it gave me those Zeiss colors and Zeiss pop along with the Zeiss 3D depth that the Leica did not give me. I remember the lens being super sharp as well but how will it hold up today on the Leica M 240 and Monochrom? At under $900 how could this lens compete with the legendary Leica 50 Summicron that sells for $2295? Can it? Well yes it does, and it does so very well indeed. In some ways it is better than the Leica 50 Cron (original, not APO) and in others it is not. Well, mainly in one area only, and that is build.

It appears many have had the same question as me: “Which lens should I get? Zeiss ZM 50 Planar or Leica Summicron”? Again, the cron is now $1400 more expensive than the Zeiss Planar and below I will go over how I feel the Zeiss compares with the legendary cron as well as talk a teeny bit about the Zeiss 50 Sonnar C 1.5 as well.

I do not have a 50 Cron here anymore to compare but I have extensive experience with it on film and digital, so I know it well. I know its rendering, its bokeh quality and its build. It is a great lens and a favorite of mine but the Zeiss belongs right up there with it, especially considering the cost. Be sure to click on the images here  to see them larger with more details.

The Zeiss on the Monochrom wide open at f/2


The Breakdown

Build quality will go to the Leica without question. The Leica, as I said, is legendary. It is a problem free lens and the build has never had any major issues unlike the Zeiss that sometimes can develop “focus slop” over time. The review sample I had years ago had the slop and stickiness and Zeiss sent that one to me direct! It did not affect the focusing performance but it did feel loose and sloppy. The one I am using now is a rental from lensrentals.com and it is perfect in feel and use but build wise, it is lighter than the Leica and you can tell it just is not made as well as the mighty cron. I’d say it is 80% of the Leica build. The Leica also has a built-in slide out hood. The Zeiss hood is an extra $80.

Flare control goes to the Zeiss. I tried to get it to flare and just could not yet the Summicron is known for flare. I never had too many issues with the cron and flare but have experienced it quite a few times last year. The Zeiss is flare free. Period.

The M240 and Planar at f/2


Sharpness wide open may go to the Summicron but it is close. Sharpness from 2.8 on..the Zeiss is a monster. There is gobs of detail when shooting this lens at f4 to the point that you couldn’t get any sharper.

Bokeh goes to the Zeiss. The Zeiss can get harsh at times but the cron can get harsh more of the time. The Summicron is one lens where you either love or hate the Bokeh. The Zeiss is smoother, creamier and more pleasurable to look at.

M 240 and Planar


3D Pop/Depth – Zeiss wins in this area.

Color – Zeiss will give you rich saturated colors where the Summicron will render a bit cooler and with less saturation. To some the Zeiss colors may be overkill but they can be toned down if needed. The Zeiss is also more contrasty.

M 240 and 50 Planar at f/2


Cost – The Zeiss is under $900. The Leica is $2295. Image quality is a little different but I would not classify either as better. You just go with the look you like most but again, $900 for a high quality Zeiss 50 f/2 for your Leica..BRAND NEW? No brainer if you want to save some money. I know how it is after buying a Leica M body..sometimes you have very little left over for a lens.

Resale Value – Leica will always have better resale value with their lenses but if we take a look at resale values of the Zeiss Planar and Leica Summicron 50 (latest non APO version) we can see that the Zeiss is not so bad of a choice when it comes to resale in comparison. I have seen the Zeiss sell for as low as $625, that is $275 less than new. I have seen the 50 cron sell used for $1350-$1500. That is $800 to $950 less than new. You lose less by reselling the Zeiss.

Ive been using this rental for a while and became so tempted to just buy one to add to my 50mm collection. So much so that I just did buy one today. It will be my 4th 50mm so I guess I have a 50mm addiction, lol. It does not give up anything in performance when compared to the Leica equivalent and some will prefer the Zeiss hands down.

Detail and Crops

So how does this lens really do on the M240 or Monochrom? Take a look below at the three shots with 100% crops embedded. You will have to click on them to see the larger views with full 100% crop. BTW, these were all at f/2 but the cat at the bottom from the Mono was at 2.8. Incredible detail here.




One con with the Zeiss is that there is some distortion if you shoot up close at the minimum focus distance when shooting straight lines. You can see this in the 2nd crop image above with the fly. I do not remember ever seeing this with the Summicron.

What about the C Sonnar 1.5 from Zeiss?

This one is Easy. If you are a 50mm fan then GET BOTH. For $2100, $200 less than the Leica 50 Summicron you can have the Planar and the Sonnar and you will have TWO totally different looks. The Zeiss Sonnar 1.5 is a classic design and your images will have that classic look and feel. Use the Planar when you want sharpness and detail and more “perfection” and use the Sonnar when you want “dreamy and creamy”. I adore both of these lenses and both are gorgeous in their own ways. Here are three shots from the Sonnar using the lovely Leica Monochrom:




The Sonnar just has a classic look and feel to the images and the Bokeh is much different from the Planar. This one runs about $1200 and is another of my all time favorite 50mm lenses and yes, I caught that butterfly wide open at 1.5  :)

Zeiss ZM  – Well worth the cost, a true deal. 

I can easily and highly recommend this lens for anyone who shoots with a Leica M8, M9, Monochrom or M 240. It’s a legitimate deal in the world of Leica mount lenses and the lens is a beautiful piece of kit that really does no wrong. It is flare free, easy to focus, has 1/3 aperture click stops, focus dial is smooth (unless you get a sticky one), and from what I hear the service from Zeiss is top-notch if you ever have issues. The Zeiss Planar ZM is a hell of a lens my friends and it will not break the bank when it comes to putting a lens on your Leica M or Zeiss Ikon.

You can buy this lens at B&H Photo HERE. PopFlash also sells it :)

A couple more samples below:






Apr 062013


Leica Monochrom Detail Capabilities and more..take a look

Really? More on the Monochrom?

The Leica Monochrom has been written about many times on this site not only from me, but from many other owners who wanted to share their experiences with the camera. For those who do not want to read any more about it, then close your browser now :) For those asking for the Fuji X20 and Nikon A coverage..hold on..they are coming as well :) For those wanting more on this B&W only camera from the worlds most expensive 35mm camera brand, read on :) Also check out my continually updated sample gallery.

I have recently had a reunion with the Monochrom after selling off my 1st one and yes, it is now back in my hands. Even though my main camera is the Leica M 240 and Sony RX1 and both can do a convincing B&W, the Monochrom does indeed have something about it that I can not put my finger on. Is it mental? Is it silly? Is it an illusion? Well, it could be but not really. The fact is that there is something in the MM files that are different from the M files and especially the M9 files. To make it simple, more micro contrast, more details, and it seems like more shades of grey which all come together to give a bit of a different rendering over what the M gives me with B&W. I love my M 240 with a passion and have used it every single day since it arrived. I have been using it more than I used my old M9 and it is a beautiful camera (just like the M9 is still a beautiful camera).

But the Monochrom is different. It is a specialty tool that does one thing and when a tool is designed to do one thing it usually does that one thing VERY well. 

Is it Better? Most would say “different”. The MM does do better in low light (than the M9 and M) past ISO 3200 and all the way up to 10,000 and if you are a street shooter, the MM is probably the worlds best street shooting digital camera. If you are into fine art B&W, the MM is the worlds best digital 35mm for B&W. If you want to take B&W portraits with amazing silkyness and unique B&W qualities, the MM is the worlds best B&W 35mm digital. If you want to capture the most detail you can possibly capture, to the point that you simply can not capture anymore, the MM is the worlds best digital 35mm B&W dedicated (Nikon D800E is up there as well).

Little Man – Monochrom and Leica 50 Summitar from the 1940s. BTW, this shot is not Photoshopped. The kid has makeup on his face as we were at a Zombie event. He was mad at his parents for some reason and had just been crying. I thought he looked like an older man in a boys body and asked his parents if I could take his picture. They said yes, so I did. But the dark spots on his face are from his makeup, not photoshop :)


ReVisiting the MM

I attached one of my external hard drives I use for travel and  was going over some older shots I took with the Monochrom (in addition to a couple of new ones) and I was flabbergasted when I opened one of the files up in 100% full size. I spent a good 15 minutes scrolling around and looking at the detail in the photo. The windows, the curtains inside each window, the clothes hanging out to dry. Wow.

*The original file was exposed incorrectly and the house was too dark and I ended up running a Silver Efex Preset through it and it instantly came to life. It also added noise but it doesn’t matter as it looks great.

Many have said “The Monochrom can not look like film” and this is mostly true but these files from the MM are superb and I feel they surpass film. Ive shot thousands of frames with Tri-X and it can be gorgeous but it can also be not so gorgeous. As with any form of photography, it is really all about the light. If we shoot in bad light with film, the results will be flat. If we shoot in bad light with digital, results will be flat. I know there are many film lovers and die hards but for me, I just do not have the time to shoot film and I prefer not to deal with the limitations. We are in an age of “no limitations” and “no compromise” when it comes to photography. Most cameras made today, even $300 models can do amazing in the right hands. Technology has come a log way but a camera like the Monochrom is for the few who prefer a tool that will make them think, work and LEARN.

With the MM you do one thing and one thing only. Shoot B&W photos. You can not fall back on color, you can not shoot video, you can not use an EVF. You simply aim, compose, expose and fire.

I know I have recently done some side by sides with the Leica M but have not yet seen the level of detail from the M that I see in the image below. My crops in my last test were close but for super fine detail it does not beat the MM.

For detail freaks the MM does not disappoint. For those  that do not care, just about any camera can do the job and even the Olympus OM-D E-M5 does a convincing B&W.


The image below was shot with a 35 Lux FLE and you can see the distortion (that I did not correct) but what is blowing me away is the detail. THIS is the detail everyone speaks of when they praise the Monochrom. I have a 27″ display and it looks amazing when viewing details at 100%. Remember, the noise was added when I ran it through Silver Efex.

Click the image below to see the full size file.

Click it and take a look at the amazing detail at 100% – you can even see me in the doorway reflection :)


or you can click on the 100% crop below to see the detail at 100%


High ISO

I was out with my fiancée last night and brought the Monochrom with the Zeiss 50 Planar along. ISO 6400, f/2 – click it for larger. No PP, this is direct from camera..at 6400 in a very low light room.


One more quick snap direct from the RAW file. Shot a Hummingbird while taking a walk in full AZ sun with the Ziess planar and the 100% crop is embedded when you click the image…


I have to say that after testing the Zeiss Planar 50 on the M and MM…I have come to the conclusion that it is one of the best 50’s available in regards to IQ that you can buy for these cameras if you love detail, pop, smoother Bokeh than a standard summicron and VERY rich colors. I will have a new look at the Zeiss 50 Zm on the M and MM soon. At under $900 it is a deal if you can swing for a Leica lens after spending so much on the body. It is not equal in build  to the Leica cron but IQ in many ways surpasses it. For $2100 or the cost of a 50 Summicron you could pick up the Ziess PLanar f/2 and Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5. I feel the Planar does best on the M and the Sonnar does best on the MM. Both are stunning lenses.

Finally a shot at night with a 35 Lux FLE at ISO 1000. Click it and take a look at the detail. I originally underexposed so had to bring out some shadow detail which brought out more noise.

But this was shot around midnight in San Francisco.


The Monochrom is camera that has brought with it excitement, controversy, anger, hatred and passion/love. Some adore it, some hate it, some act like anyone who owns one is not right in the head for spending that kind of cash on one. One thing remains constant. Those who do own it seem to be VERY passionate about it. More so than any other camera I have seen. I have spoken with many MM owners and they all tell me it is a camera that will stay with them until they or it dies. That says a lot. It even works extremely well with classic and cheaper lenses.

Do you need this camera to shoot decent Black & White? Absolutely not! Like I mentioned earlier cameras like the OM-D E-M5 do great as well. So does 90% of other digitals on the market. The Mono is for  those who want a tool that will help them grow, give them no other options and also give them the worlds best B&W output in the 35mm digital world.


Nov 162012

New Camera Friday! Sony RX1 arrives!

The Sony RX1 has arrived to me today, and I am excited about this one. It has been a few weeks since I shot with it at the Sony event and when I opened the box today I was reminded why I fell for it in the 1st place. SIZE and BUILD and QUALITY! I plan on a huge review for this camera but it just arrived so I will need some time with it before I can do that. For now I made a new video below showing some size comparisons with the RX1 alongside the OM-D, D-Lux 6, NEX-6 and the Leica Monochrom. You can hopefully get an idea of how small it is. I also gave a quick example of the AF in my living room. It is quick as in faster than the Fuji X cameras. About on par with the NEX-6, etc.

Watch the video below…just press play :)

I also took it outside to test the crop feature with a quick and dirty test shot because that is one of the most asked questions I have been getting about the RX1. 

The crop mode is basically a crop mode. You do lose resolution and size but quality stays. Also, this is only available to use in JPEG mode. I have an example below of a quick test shot showing what to expect with the crop modes. Basically the camera has a built in 35 f2 Zeiss lens. With a press of a button you can switch to a 50mm crop mode. One more press and you are in a 75mm crop mode. This can come in handy if you are shooting JPEG and you want more reach.

But you do lose resolution as it is like cropping the photo yourself though Sony does some kind of processing in camera to keep the IQ up there which I can say it does very well.


1st shot is the native 35mm shot, then the 50mm crop, then th e75mm crop – straight from camera JPEG.


So look for a full review of the RX1 soon along with reviews of the Sony NEX-6, Olympus 60 Macro and a quick review of the NEX-5R with it’s new features. You can pre-order the RX1 at Amazon HERE if you like.

Just a few of the RX1 images I may or may not have posted previously…

ISO 2000, JPEG

ISO 8000 at night with 100% crop (click image)

Speaking of the new Olympus 60mm Macro..WOW!!!

This lens is the best Macro I have ever shot with, hands down. Now, I have not shot with them all, nor am I some Macro guru, not even close. BUT I do know quality when I see it and this Olympus 60 2.8 is razors sharp even wide open, getting surgical when you stop down. One sample before my review…click it for latger. BTW, this was handheld at f/2.8. The 5-Axis IS works well with this lens. You can order this one at B&H Photo or Amazon.

So stay tuned everyone for much more on these cameras and lenses! Have a GREAT weekend, I will be out shooting!

One more from the Leica Monochrom and Zeiss 50 Sonnar, which is gorgeous on the MM!

My soon to be Stepdaughter. She had a clay mask on and still let me snap a pic :) 50 Sonnar wide open at 1.5

May 162012

Grab this card now, or a bunch of them as this deal JUST popped up at B&H Photo. $6.99 for a Lexar 8GB Platinum II SDHC card. I need to grab about 10 of these so act quick if you have been needing some good SD cards! YOU CAN BUY THEM HERE.

Also, for the Leica people…the wonderful Zeiss Sonnar 50 1.5 ZM lens is IN STOCK in Black and Silver right now as well. Enjoy!

Mar 202012

Traveling in South America with the Sony NEX-7 & Leica glass

By Ashwin Rao – See his Blog HERE


Sony NEX-7, Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar

Hi everyone, recently I had the good luck to receive on of this past year’s most desired cameras, the Sony NEX-7. I initially considered myself a long shot to purchase this camera, due to early reports of difficulties of this camera’s ability to handle wider Leica lenses. On top of this, I am a dedicated Leica M user, and already have a similar camera in the Ricoh GXR/M-mount. Thus, why even bother with a new camera, with 2 ways to already use M lenses?’

Well, the answer is a bit multifactorial. For one, I am, like many of you, a bit of a gear head, and GAS bothers me on occasion, as well. Second, I was curious about the NEX system, and in particular, the innovative NEX-7 and it’s Tri-Navi system. Third, at 24 MP, the NEX-7 has the potential to out-resolve the M9, especially if the rumors at true that it possesses a weak anti-aliasing/blur filter. Fourth, I was curious about how enjoyable it could be to focus Leica lenses via the NEX-7’s wonderful 2.4 MP EVF.  The form factor of the NEX, with it’s integrated EVF, tiltable external viewfinder, and compact build, also was very intriguing. Finally, over the past few months, as the camera has become gradually more available, a slow trickle of positive reviews have come in, including comments in which Leica glass behaved favorably on this camera.  And thus, I started to feel that I needed to give this camera a try.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE

I had hoped to procure the NEX-7 in time for a coming trip to Argentina and Uruguay, but after reviewing a few sites and talking to dealers with long waiting lines, I started to doubt the possibility to taking this camera on the road for a real world work-out. Then, this February, my chance finally came, as a good friend, who had ordered 2 NEX cameras, found himself with 1 too many, and contacted me. The combination of my overall curiosity, along with some of the factors discussed above, sent me over the edge, and I found myself with the lovely NEX-7 in hand.

At this point, I decided to make a bold leap. I would take ONLY the NEX-7 to South America. No Leica. No GXR. Just the NEX-7. Along with me would come a Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 lens, for wide-angle work, and a host of Leica lenses, from the 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE to the Leica APO-Telyt 135 mm f/3.4, a notoriously difficult lens to use on the M9 (due primarily to its miniscule frame lines). I purchased a spare battery and a Novoflex Leica M-to-NEX adapter, and decided to go it solo. NEX-7 or bust, in South America! What follows are my thoughts and experiences shooting this system in Argentina and Uruguay in March, 2011:

Sony NEX-7, Leica 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron ASPH


When putting together my kit for the trip, I realized that I had to make some careful choices on what gear to take along with the NEX-7. If the rumors were true, shooting with lenses wider than 28 mm would potentially lead to images with the dreaded red edge and cyan drift. Some say that this is a problem particularly noted in the NEX-7, and not the NEX-5N, and I decided to avoid the problem altogether by purchasing a Ziess 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar, which acts as a 35 mm focal length equivalent on the NEX-7. Along with this lens, I decided to bring the 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux Asph FLE, essentially a 50 mm equivalent lens, my lovely and often underused Leica 75 mm f/2 APO Summicron asph, and the challenging but wonderful Leica 135 mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt. Both of these lenses are somewhat ugly ducklings in the M-system for a couple of reasons, particularly due to challenges in use. The 75 mm framelines are a bit wonky on the M9 and film M’s, making it a challenge for some to use on a full frame body. Similarly, the 135 mm APO-Telyt is a lens that many don’t even consider when using the M system, given that the framelines for this lens are tiny, and adequate use of this lens requires an additional magnifier for many of us with less than perfect vision. This set of lenses represented a useful range from 35 mm-200 mm equivalent, and I was satisfied that all lenses could see frequent use in a land far away. Below is a list of my entire photographic travel kit, all of which fit into my camera bag.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE

My Travel Kit


Camera: Sony NEX-7


Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar (35 mm equiv)

Leica 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE (50 mm equiv) (See Steve’s review HERE)

Leica 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron ASPH (110 equiv) (See Steve’s review HERE)

Leica 135 mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt ASPH (200 mm equivalent)


Bag: Fogg B-Laika Black/Charcoal bag


Miscellaneous gear:

Artisan and Artist silk strap mounted on the NEX7

Novoflex Leica M-mount-to-NEX adapter

Microfiber cleaning cloth

2 NEX batteries & Charger

4 SanDisk Extreme Pro (90 mb/sec) SD cards



MacBook Air 11 inch, with supplemental SD card reader

A wonderful thing about this kit is that the whole system listed above, save my computer,  fit easily into my Fogg bag, which is nicely discrete and doesn’t look much like a camera bag at all. Not once during my trip did I feel threatened, and further, the kit fit comfortably on my shoulder for 2 straight weeks as I travelled through Argentina and Uruguay.


Sony NEX-7, Leica 135 mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt ASPH

The Travel Itinerary

Now that the kit was assembled, next up to consider was the itinerary. Ultimately, we decided on an itinerary that focused on northern Argentina and Uruguay.

Buenos Aires

Our travels began in Buenos Aires, where we spent 3 days enjoying the city’s plentitude of offerings, photographic opportunities, and fantastic cuisine. Buenos Aires is a wonderfully walkable city with excellent public transportation, and it’s very easy to get around on foot, by bike, or via their subway system. While in Buenos Aires, we visited the amazing Recoleta cemetery, the politically charged San Telmo neighborhood, the colorful La Boca neighborhood, the uber-chique Palermo Neighborood, and a variety of other locals. We sampled the wonderful Tango culture and vibrant nightlife. Buenos Aires is a city that simply doesn’t sleep (well, maybe during the day, LOL), and is well worth a visit.

 Sony NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE


Sony NEX-7, Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar

Iguazu Falls

Upon leaving Buenos Aires, we made our way north to the stunning Iguazu Falls. considered by many to be one of the most powerful and awe-inspiring natural wonders in the world, Iguazu Falls is an amazing showing of how the force of nature can carve true beauty on this world. Some of you may be familiar with these waterfalls from movies such as “The Mission”, but for those of you haven’t experienced them, please do. The closest comparison in the U.S. is Niagara Falls, while Zimbabwe houses the inspiring Victoria Falls. I have seen Niagara falls before, but Iguazu Falls makes Niagara falls look ordinary.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE

Sony NEX-7, Leica 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron ASPH

Montevideo, Uruguay

Once we had taken in our fill of Iguazu falls, it was off to Montevideo, Uruguay. Talk about a cool city. Tie together this seaside city’s laid back atmosphere with dashes of San Diego and Miami, and you get an idea of Montevideo’s vibe. This was city of evening culture, music, and cuisine. It was the place that surprised me the most and served as the greatest inspiration for my photography. Montevideo’s old quarter and seaside boardwalk were both fantastic places to find Uruguay’s wonderful people living their own lives.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f1/4 Summilux ASPH FLE


Sony NEX-7, Leica 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron ASPH

Colonia, Uruguay

Having enjoyed Montevideo’s laidback vibe and photographic inspiration, it was off to Colonia, Uruguay, which is Uruguay’s oldest city and a designated UNESCO world heritage site. While having a bit of a Disney World-feel, it was full of many opportunities to photograph beautiful sunsets and beautifully crafted colonial architecture. It’s little shops, old cars, and overgrown alleyways make for more fun photographs.

Sony NEX-7, Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar

Back to Buenos Aires and Home

Our last day of travel was spent taking a ferry back to Beunos Aires from Colonia, and catching one of the city’s well-known tango shows, which document a colorful side of Argentine culture. It was a chance to test out the NEX-7’s low light capabilities in an exciting setting.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f1/4 Summilux ASPH FLE


Impressions of the NEX-7 while on the road

During the trip, I began to formulate several thoughts on the NEX-7. First and foremost, I found it to be an enjoyable camera for regular use, and additionally, a wonderful format by which to utilize Leica M lenses. M lenses are, in many cases, far more compact than Sony’s own native E-mount lenses, and they seem to balance well on the camera, giving it a dense, weighty, and confident feel.  The NEX-7’s tiltable viewfinder, in many instances, allowed for discrete shooting in circumstances where discretion was helpful. Further, the camera’s EVF, which in my opinion is one of the camera’s true innovations, was a joy to use.

Focus Peaking- Good, bad, or ugly?

Regarding focus peaking, I have had extensive experience using this method to manually focus M glass when using the Ricoh GXR. With the higher resolution EVF on the NEX-7 and multiple selectable colors (white, red, or yellow on the NEX-7, versus only white on the GXR), the NEX-7 offers an enjoyable focusing experience. However, the experience is far from perfect. At times, the focus peaking feature is not as sensitive enough to critically focus M lenses, particularly when shot wide open. While the focus peaking does work best when lenses are opened to their widest aperture, I found that at times, my images appeared out-of-focus upon returning home or checking the image review on the screen’s rear LCD. Thus, I often found it best to pre-focus on a scene with the lens wide open, and then stop down to get images that were better focused. I could imagine that this system could be difficult with lenses in which stopping down leads to focus shift, but in this case, none of the Leica lenses that I traveled with are known to have a bad case of focus shift.

That being said, in most cases, focus peaking works fine, and it’s a fun way to use Leica glass. Is focus peaking “better” than using a standard rangefinder focusing technique? In my opinion, the answer is “No”. In my experience, focus peaking is inferior to the RF mechanism for focusing wide and normal lenses, especially the 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE.

On the other hand, I found focus peaking and the NEX-7, paradoxically, to be more facile at using longer lenses. Whereas the Leica M system does a wonderful job at 28-50 mm focal lengths, many complain of using longer focal lengths on the M system. While I have never had this issue and comfortably have used lenses as long as 135 mm on the M system, I did find it truly enjoyable to use both the 75 mm f/2 Summicron and the 135 mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt on the NEX system. Both lenses seemed to handle well on the M system, and for reasons that were and remain unclear to me, I achieved a higher percentage of in-focus images on the M system than I was able to with the 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux FLE lens. I’ll let you all debate why this may be the case. But it was my experience.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 135 mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt ASPH

Sony NEX-7, Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar


Ergonomically, the NEX-7 is a good fit in my hand. In fact, I found the NEX-7 to be a pure joy to hold in hand. Whereas I have had difficulty holding other NEX cameras in hand, given their diminutive size, the NEX-7 and it’s fantastic grip are a far better ergonomic fit for me. I found the Tri-Navi feature set to be a wonderful way to adjust ISO, exposure compensation, and shutter speed parameters. Having all of these parameters easily accessible via on-camera controls, in addition to having aperture control directly on Leica’s lenses, afforded me with a terrific degree of control over image making parameters, and I found the Tri-Navi system to be a joy to use. Further, the EVF was appropriately placed and easy to use in concert with the rear LCD screen. In a few instances, I found that my camera strap would cover the EVF’s eye sensor, and in these instances, the rear LCD would go black, inappropriately. While this was not a common experience, it was a bit annoying when it happened.

Another minor quibble is the menu system and layout of the NEX -7. While the menu system is laid out in a reasonably logical way, I simply didn’t find it intuitive, even after prolonged use. Having to press different buttons to access different aspects of the menu was something that I got used to, but only with a lot of work. The menu system of other cameras, such as the Leica M9 and Ricoh GXR, are far more intuitive in regular use. Despite this, once you set up the NEX-7 in a manner in which you feel comfortable, you rarely have to delve into the menu system, and it essentially disappears, which is a good thing.

My final quibble with the NEX-7 was placement of the video record button. I found it very annoying when I was going for a photo, and the video record had been inadvertently triggered by my larger fingers. For future iterations of this camera, I’d like to see it lock out or different placement for this button.

Minor quibbles aside, using the Sony NEX-7 was a joy, in terms of pure usage. This was the case both with adapted Leica lenses and the Zeiss E mount 24 mm Sonnar.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 135 mm f/3.4 APO Telyt ASPH


A word on the Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar

At the onset of my trip, I elected to purchase the Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar to accompany my Leica M kit. I did this for several reasons. For one, I thought that it would be nice to have one high-quality AF lens to couple my manual focus kit, in events where I could hand off my camera to others who were not used to manual focus. For example, for moments where I wanted pictures of myself of my traveling group, it’s nice to have an AF lens to hand off, as using this lens is far more intuitive to the majority of users.

Second, I figured that wide Leica M lenses, such as the Summilux 24 mm f/1.4 are equally large and have a higher chance of producing images with color shifts. This phenomenon, to my knowledge, hasn’t been widely characterized for the Sonnar.

Finally, given that this was Zeiss behind the design of this lens, I hoped that image quality would be comparable to that produced by Leica M lenses, despite the price differential. Sure enough, the Zeiss performed admirably on the trip. I found it’s autofocus speed to be sufficient, and image quality to be exemplary. All in all, I have been very happy with this added purchase to my Sony NEX-7 kit.

Image quality

After all, this is what we are all about, right? LOL. Seriously, as a Leica M shooter, I am used to some of the best IQ available in 35 mm photography. Reading accounts from around the web, I was being lead to believe that the NEX-7 was capable of producing outstanding detail in its image. I was also led to believe that Leica lenses seemed to talk well with the NEX-7 sensor, particularly wide normal, normal, and telephoto M lenses.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 135 mm f/3.4 APO Telyt ASPH

So what do I think about IQ, after several weeks and over 1000 images taken while on the road? Here’s my impression….

The Sony NEX-7 does an admirable job of bonding with Leica M lenses, but it is No M9, in terms of IQ. Images, when brought up on my high Gamut 27 inch home monitor, are slightly flatter and less “3D” than M9 images. The pop that I am so often blown away by when looking at M9 files, isn’t quite there. There seems to be less foreground-background separation, maybe due in part to the 1.5x crop factor that the NEX-7’s sensor imparts. It may be due to the NEX-7’s AA filter, which I suspect is light. It may be due to the CMOS versus CCD properties. It may simply be due to my own perceptions or false perceptions, but while I don’t have side-by-side comparisons, I feel that there is a slight lag in IQ at base ISO’s, when comparing the Leica M9 and Sony NEX-7. Take that with a large grain of salt, but I say it with confidence.

Further, I find that noise is more apparent in NEX-7 files, when compared to M9 files, at lower ISO’s. Maybe it’s the added megapixels, thus leading to an increased on-screen magnification, but I definitely see more noise, particularly in the shadows, in NEX-7 files than M9 files. In stark contrast however, NEX-7 files are fare more useable in High ISO settings than digital Leica M files. I tend to avoid pushing ISO’s above 800 on the Leica M9, but I’d be comfortable using the NEX-7 up to nearly ISO 3200, and certainly to ISO 1600. In one instance, I accidentally ratcheted up the NEX-7’s ISO to 16,000 during a Tango show, and coming home, the images still looked great. Below is one example:

Sony NEX-7, Leica 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron, ISO 16,000!

And an image at the same show, at a far more reasonable ISO:

Sony NEX-7, Leica 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron, IS0 800

Even with post-processing NEX-7 RAW files, I don’t see much banding or digital artifacts. The noise properties of NEX-7 files at high ISO is generally pleasing. Overall, I find the NEX-7 to be a better low light machine, by quite a bit, than the M9. But I don’t think that many would be surprised to hear that statement.

In terms of post processing NEX-7 files, I found these files to be quite responsive to editing in Adobe Lightroom. NEX-7 files are a joy to work with, and don’t break apart with digital pushing and pulling, dodging/burning, or other techniques. NEX-7 RAW files do in fact offer a fair bit of creative latitude in post processing, and I’d like to commend Sony on a job well done in this department


All in all, was I satisfied my  Sony NEX-7 travel experience? Absolutely! Would I use this as a primary system for Leica M lenses? Once again, absolutely? Am I satisfied with image quality coming from this camera? Yup. IQ is right up there with high-end digital SLR’s and mirrorless camera offerings? Is IQ comparable to image quality coming from the Leica M9? As stated, to my eyes, the images produced by the NEX-7 are slightly flatter, with less 3D pop, than what I see coming from my Leica M9 at lower ISO’s. In contrast, I find the high ISO capabilities of the Sony NEX-7 to be far better than that of the Leica M9. Would any of these things matter for web-sized images or smaller prints? Nope, I doubt it. But for the pixel peepers among you, I feel that it is fair to convey my impressions. And that’s all they really are: impressions of a camera that I have greatly enjoyed and plan to keep in my kit for some time.

NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE

Further, for the photographically inclined, both Argentina and Uruguay have so much to offer. I suggest that you consider these destinations for your future travel plans. The people, the food, the sites, and the culture are all remarkable and worth directing your collective lenses toward.

I hope that you have enjoyed the words and images (which, by the way, were all edited and processed on the road, using the 11 inch MacBook Air). Until the next time, my dear Huffites, it’s Ashwin, signing out.

NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE

Sony NEX-7, Leica 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron ASPH


NEX-7, Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar



Sony NEX-7, Leica 135 mm f/3.4 APO Telyt ASPH


From Steve: I want to thank Ashwin for yet another wonderful report! To see Ashwin’s blog just click HERE.  His Flickr stream can be seen HERE


Feb 292012

Just saw this deal at Amazon! For those wanting to give Micro 4/3 a try this is a steal of a deal. The Olympus E-PL1 with kit zoom, brand new in box for $266. It’s even fulfilled by Amazon. My review of this camera is HERE.



Also, just saw that the black Zeiss 50 Sonnar f/1.5 is IN STOCK at B&H Photo today! These ALWAYS sell out within minutes.


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