Q&A Wednesday: Week 3

It’s that time again! These weeks have been flying by lately but there is never a shortage of questions flowing to my inbox! Here are todays selections:

Q: Hi Steve, I recently asked a friend in Stuttgart, Germany to buy me a M9 and couple of lenses.The camera and the lenses arrived but 50mm 1.4 summilux seems to be the older model. Pre-asph one. What I want to ask is should I change it with the new version? I intend to buy the 50mm noctilux 0.95. So when we compare f0.95 with 1.4 asph, is 1.4 sharper than the noctilux? or is noctilux better than 1.4 summilux asph in overall performance. I mean if you should take picture with an aperture of f5.6 with both 0.95 and 1.4 asph which one would you prefer?

A: Hi there! In regards to your question on the Lux, I happen to be a big fan of the pre-asph summilux but the ASPH version is an improvement in many ways. With that said, if you plan on buying the 0.95 Noct then there really is no need to upgrade to the ASPH Lux as the Noct is just as good if not better. At F5.6 though I would rather shoot the smaller summilux. I feel the main benefit of that big Noctilux is its fast speed so using it at F5.6…I would rather shoot the lighter lens.

Q: Steve, I am from Hong Kong. I just loved your photos and your comments, and I just went to buy my very first Leica last week M8.2! Do u need any filter for taking those photos with soft vignetting effect?

A: No filter needed for vignetting. If you see vignetting in any of my photos that is something that I added during the RAW conversion with the vignetting slider. The only filter I have ever used on an M8 or M8.2 were the mandatory IR filters. Enjoy the M8.2!

Q: I love your analysis of the GF1 and the comparisons. I’m a huge Leica fan (I’m a designer… No choice but to like what is beautiful). I’ve had a first generation Digilux 4 since it first came out. I was never in love with the pics it took (I end up cleaning up in Photoshop all the time). The GF1 looks great obviously and I was at B&H the other day looking at it. Whem Lumix comes out with a camera it’s always repeated by Leica further down the line. Is the Leica version actually any better than Lumix or does it just look better? And have you heard anything about a Leica version of the GF1?

A: Hello! Thanks for the kind words. I do not believe that Leica is going to release a m4/3 camera as they are now concentrating on their own designs. Even if they did, it would be Panasonic that made it and it would be the same camera. The Digilux, D-Lux, C-Lux and V-Lux cameras were all made by Panasonic in the same factory as the Panny versions. Same cameras, different firmware, software package and warranty (all in Leicas favor). As far as IQ they would be about the same.

Q: Hey Steve, do you really like your 50 summicron? I ask only because I can only buy one lens.

A: Yes I love my 50 Summicron. No, it is not F1.4 but I find it to be a superb quality lens, especially for portraits and even some landscape. It has a unique quality that is sharp but smooth. Hard to explain but I am extremely happy with my 50 cron!

Q: Steve, first of all your site rocks! It’s the reason why I’m thinking of purchasing my first Leica. I started casual photography with a Nikon D40 a few years ago and now have a D300. I love sports and attend 10-20 football and baseball games a year. I’ve since also grown to love street photography, landscape photography etc over the last year or so. Since my job has me traveling the US almost every week I get some opportunities to capture scenes in different cities. I’ve tried compacts such as the Canon G11 and even have a GF1 now but I always seem to fall short of the image quality I’ve been accustomed to with my D300. So, after all this, my question is should I purchase a used M8 or M8.2 with 1 lens or give the X1 a try?..My goal is to take this with me while I travel for work as well as have it do all my non-sports shooting during the day and even at night perhaps as I walk around etc. I have saved $4,000 so I know I can go either route. If the M8 or 8.2 makes better sense what lens? 35mm or 50MM? I tend to lean towards the longer end of things (maybe my sports influence).. I’ve been thinking of a used 50mm Summicron F2…Anxious to get your thoughts! Keep up the great work!

A: Thanks for the question and the comments on the site! As for the answer to your question it is not an easy one. Really, only YOU can decide what camera you want to buy but if you think about what you really want to shoot with the camera you may be able to get it all figured out very easily. If you want a travel camera to take with your for high quality photography for capturing scenes, and lower light images than the X1 is superb for this. As long as you are not shooting action or sports with it you will be fine. The M8 and M8.2 would be a step up due  to the lens options but it will also be more expensive. Keep in mind also that the X1 has a fixed 24 lens which is the equivalent of a 35mm lens in focal length. Not a very long lens so maybe the M8 and 50 would be more to your liking. You could get a 50 summicron and it would be like having a 67mm F2 lens on the camera but the X1 has better high ISO capability than the M8.

Tough choice but if I were in your shoes I would probably buy the X1 for what you describe. It’s small, light, and the IQ is superb. If you want to go bigger then the M8/50 cron combo would be sweet but you have the drawbacks of the high ISO getting dodgy by 1250. Good luck with your decision.

Q: I am a proud owner of a Panny GF-1 (14-45mm kit lens) and are scouting for a fast lens, mainly for low light and potrait stuff. I am currently torn between the Panny 20mm F1.7 pancake or a CV Nokton 50mm F1.1. I’ve done my homework and would be able to live with the pros & cons of either lens should I choose any one of them. My one and only burning question would be on the end quality of the photos. Since your kind self has experience on both lens, do you think that the extra money and extra effort needed on the CV Nokton (it’s big & heavy and yes, I have to manual focus) is very well worth it? Many thanks in advance Steve.

A: I get this kind of question a few times every week. The 20 1.7 will be like a 40mm lens on the GF1 and the 50 Nokton would be like a 100mm on the GF1. For portraits I would say that the Nokton would give better results as 100mm has always been thought of as a great focal length for portraits. For low light I would say that the 20 1.7 would be a better choice as it will be wider and easier to handhold at slower shutter speeds. True the Nokton is a faster lens but remember you will be shooting with an equivalent 100mm focal length lens. Not the best focal length for every day shooting. I would just ask myself what focal length I want and go from there.

Also as you already know, the Nokton will be manual focus only and the 20 will be AF or MF. I would stick with the 20, plus it is less expensive. As far as IQ between the two, they are both fantastic IMO but the Nokton may be softer on the GF1. Bottom line? Nokton would be better for portraits and the 20 better for everything else. Just my opinion.

Q: I’m immeasurably looking forward to taking the M9 on a trip to NY this March, but when I’m at home in Chicago, I’m struggling to find places of interest. What process do you use when you’re going out on a shoot for interesting landscape? Any one place or type of place seem more successful in producing quality subjects than another? Could be just that I have to have the right mindset about it. In any case, my unending thanks for putting together this treasure-trove of info together on your site, and for your attention to readers.

A: Thanks so much for the kind words! Shooting in MYC is awesome. So much to see, do and it never ends. 24/7 there are opportunities unlike Chicago where the city dies down at night. What I do to find interesting things is DRIVE. I drive quite a bit and if I am with the family and I drive by a location I want to return to later I put the location in my Iphone and then I return another day. Other times I just drive to towns I have never been to before. I will look on a map, check out what is within a few hours distance and take a drive! Most of the time there is nothing, but sometimes I see some pretty cool things.

You are struggling to find things to shoot in Chicago because you live there 🙂 You probably have shot everything in your area many times over. Going to NYC will help kick start your creativity and is one reason I like to take a nice drive at least every week. Good luck!


  1. Hi Steve,
    I read your review on the Leica 75mm con f2 and although the 75 is not everyone’s favourite format I saved and paid for a brand new black version. I must admit that I am adapting to this little wonder, take a step back if room is needed or shoot tight, I am amazed with the colours straight out of the camera. I have a 35 2.5 and to be honest have not used it since the 75 came. My photos have improved so much with this little beauty. Getting Leica gear is a challenge in Australia, I canvassed a number of my fellow photographers and they would not even consider changing from Canon or Nikon, boy do they not appreciate the step up in quality…

    Cheers Patrick

  2. Steve,
    Your site is an oasis! Its a great read and a go-to source of info for the legion of Leica lovers.
    My question is a simple one– when will the M9 become available for purchase in the US?

  3. Hey, thanks for the link, phantastic comparison. I guess it was a dry thing to shoot (who wouldn’t be rather out and about, shooting “real life”), but very educational. Nice film projector, too. Interesting, I almost prefer the slightly more vivid colour rendition of the Pen over the M9.

  4. Hey Michel, no misunderstanding 🙂

    The 20 1.7 lens is a 20mm lens, yes, I know this but on ANY m4/3 camera it becomes a 40mm Equivalent focal length. You still have the 20mm 1.7 DOF, not 40mm DOF. But it will not be like shooting a real 20mm lens (as in wide angle, and as we all know it) but rather more like a 40mm.

    I see what you are saying and I agree with you 100%. I tried explaining the same thing before, and said the same thing as you below:


    Anyway, thanks for the comment!

  5. Hey Steve, :D, I think we misunderstand each other here, as you wrote …

    > The 20 1.7 will be like a 40mm lens on the GF1 and the 50 Nokton would be like a 100mm on the > GF1.

    The 20mm is a native µ4/3 lens and will always be 20mm “…on the GF1…” no matter what. It would give the equivalent impression of a 40mm 24×36 mm 135 camera, of course, but it doesn’t “become” a 40mm at all. It will also retain 20mm DOF characteristics which is often overlooked by all those bokeh lovers.

    Differently, though, the Nokton as a native 50mm 24×36 mm 135 lens by definition crops to 100mm when mounted on the GF1 or any µ4/3. Despite that, it still features a 50mm DOF character.

    I know you know your stuff, don’t get me wrong.

    This is about clarity of language, particularly in a Q&A for newbies. Sure some might think “what the heck, it’s just words, who cares about being that anally precise”. Well, I think precision and clarity is what defines Leica shooting. And believe me, like you and your inbox, I too have to many film students every week, even camera assistants on set who surprise me by not grasping the native v equiv maths of f-lengths, let alone that DOF characteristics that are independent of this. They then tell me about some web forums (not yours, don’t worry 😉 ) where someone wrote some obscure stuff about crop factors. I then normally throw some smelly old books by Adams, Feininger and 1930s Zeiss DOF optometrical tables at them. They then come back looking like having had a life-changing experience. 😉

    BTW, who would have thought that Cosina would ever manage to get its stuff into a Leica equipment bag. 10 years ago, no Leica shooter would even dare uttering the word Cosina. What purchasing an Austrian brand name like Voigtländer does to an OEM…

    Keep the great quality up, it’s rare,

  6. Thanks Michael! BTW the 20 1.7 on the GF1 becomes a 40mm equivalent focal length. It’s still a 20mm lens but due to the 2X crop it is giving you a 40mm equiv. 🙂

  7. Hi Steve,

    stumbled over your side a month ago while checking reactions to the new FF & µ4/3 system cameras and how they might influence future DSMCs (I am a cinematographer, shooting cine-film, so have a different angle on the pro imaging industry developments than you – check out the cinematography.com forums where I do some Q&As, mostly for newcomers).

    Very nice website with a great concept and writing. Your “real world tests” are an overdue approach in the plethora of faceless digital camera review sites. Also enjoyed reading all the Leica ownership pride stuff (I grew up in Germany and Switzerland, so Leica is much more mundane to me in US or UK… we had Leica cameras for art classes and Leica microscopes in biology at high school – although everyone preferred using older Zeiss-based cameras and scopes that were also at hand).

    I hope Leica is thanking you for all the free viral marketing.
    Keep it up, man, despite the heavy costs you must suffer re. bandwith!

    > I get this kind of question a few times every week.
    > The 20 1.7 will be like a 40mm lens on the GF1.

    I think you must get these questions way too often – answering them becomes like a reflex: I think the G 1:1,7 / 20mm will be a 20mm lens on the Lumix GF1, not a 40mm as you state ;D .

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