Q&A Wednesday! March 24th 2010

It’s back! Q&A Wednesday was MIA for the past few weeks but it was only due to me being super busy and up to my ears with gear! Anyway, I have received some interesting questions recently so wanted to post some of them here. If you have any questions that you would like to see next week, just use the contact link above!

Q: Hey Steve, I was wondering how you manage all of your hard drive space? I just got a GF1 and have been shooting in RAW; I’m quickly eating into my HD space on my Macbook. Should I move all my photos onto an external RAID drive? Derrick

A: Hey Derrick! Thanks for the question. Three words. External Hard Drive. When I was using a macbook pro I always had my portable 500GB hard drive with me in my bag. These days I use my Imac for my photo needs and I upped the size of my external drive to 4 TB. I now have PLENTY of space and all of my photos go directly to this external drive. This keeps my Imac relatively clean with plenty of space. So I Highly recommend an external drive for your photos if you are running out of space on your main computer. Also, always have backups! Here is a great 2 TB external drive that looks great, performs great and wont break the bank at $285. If you want auto backups this is a nice solution. Tons of options out there!

Q: Hi Steve, Love your website. Follow daily. I just bought my first Leica. I’m an amateur wanting to learn everything. Originally, I purchased an Elmarit M 28mm, looking to add a second lens but really don’t want to break the bank. Any suggestions or recommendations would be most appreciated! Bobby

A: Hey Bobby! This one is easy. I would recommend the 50 summicron. You can buy then new for $2k or used for as little as $800 if you search around and find an older one. A 28 and 50 would be a nice set for your camera. Good luck!

Q: Message: Hi Steve, im new to Aperture and photo edititng . Saw your video on youtube and in your website and tried to use color on my Aperture 3 but wont work on what you did on changing the color of the sky on your video..can you pls give me a step by step instruction on how to change colors on a image…thanks. Jay.

A: While editing an image in Aperture 3 you can go down to the color sliders at the bottom left of the adjustment pane. If the sky is blue, adjust the hue of the blue slider. This will change the color/hue of the sky 🙂

Q: Message: Hi Steve, I have one question regarding storing pictures and then presenting them after some time – maybe you find it dummy but I don’t see some easy solution. I have thousands of pictures (family/holiday) and they are on my backup disk which is pretty slow (2MB/s) if we talk about showing them efficiently to someone who wants to see ‘my gallery’. I guess you have much more and you use RAW, you don’t print them into  albums and I guess they can’t even fit into your Mac. Sticking to one software (like Lightroom) is quite tricky, because as I can see – now you purchased Apperture 3 – so your Lightroom tagging/ranking has to be done again? So the question is – how to keep all pictures on one place, have them sorted, tagged, ranked and be able to browse them quickly. Maybe visitors of your site could say which solution they use…  Thank you for your answer Jan

A: Hey Jan, thanks for the great question! I have been asked this quite a bit and most people are surprised to hear my answer. I have digital images in my external hard drive dating back to 1997 from some of those first Sony Mavica floppy disc cameras that were total garbage. Over the years I have stored my images by month to my external drives. Aperture and Lightroom was not around for most of the years that I was shooting so I created folders on my hard drive by year and then months. So in folder 1998 I will have 12 folders, each representing a month. Up until a month ago all I used was Adobe bridge and Photoshop CS4. I used bridge to browse my files on my HD by year/month. To me, this is the easiest and even easier than using Aperture and Lightroom.

I love Aperture 3 but actually prefer my old way of storing and organizing my images. I will always have them on my HD, ready to browse by any year or month. Tens of thousands of images. I did not load all of them in to Aperture and actually have only been using Aperture 3 for my new images (starting a month ago). With that said, all of my old images from 1997 up to a month ago are not rated or tagged in any way (unless it was a paid job, then I have a folder just for those and know exactly where to find them).

I can easily browse my photos just by picking a year/month I want to browse. In a few more years I will be able to load up Aperture and browse them all by year/month as well. The key is to have a good external drive. Good luck!

Q: X1 vs D-lux4.  Steve, Thanks for your great insight & reviews!  I own a M3 & M8, but am looking for a small camera to take bike riding and skiing, quick hike with the dogs.  I have been looking into the X1, and have read many of the pros and cons. Of course I have never held a X1 in my hands.  So the quick question, is the X1 worth the extra 1k over the D-Lux 4, when I already have a great M8.  Thanks again for your help.  Jim

A: You have an M3 and M8…well, if you want to look the part get an X1. Lovely camera with amazing quality for its size. If you want more versatility then I would say get the D-Lux 4 (which also looks nice). The Dlux 4 will give you thing the M8 can not do like Macro, close focus and some zoom. For compact small sensor cameras, the D-Lux 4/LX3 is still my favorite! With that said…the X1 beats the D-Lux 4 for IQ, DR, High ISO and of course simplicity.

Q:Message: Hi Steve, Got another question for you. I notice there are a lot of Leica Leitz lenses on ebay and they are made in Canada. Are they the real deal? They are not cheap either. Are they any good? Cheers.

A: Yes, they are the real deal. There are a few lenses that were made in Canada. The 50 Noctilux is one of them, the older 35 Summicrons and the 75 Lux I believe. Many were made in Canada.

Q: Dear Steve, You are probably inundated with mail but I wonder if you would be kind enough to reply to me.  Call me, if you like, a “worried M9 owner”. I have read excellent reviews on the M9 including a leading and encredibly enthusiastic article by you.  Based on this and other enthusiastic reviews (Sean Reid/Rockwell/Luminous Landscapes/Erwin Puts) I migrated from a Nikon D2x to the M9 with 35 mm Summicron lens.  My understanding was that the quality would be within a hair’s breadth of the D3x.

Imagine my alarm when I read the DxOMarkIQ results yesterday which seem to suggest that the Kodak sensor is little different from the four year old Canon 5D Mki.

Are we all deluding ourselves?  Ignore the advantages of an RF camera. In simple IQ terms just how close is the M9 to the D3x?  I am really confused.  I struggle to reconcile the DXO results with those commentators who have said the M9 is at the very top of the IQ world.

I’d really be grateful to hear from you. Suffice it to say I feel a little bit concerned.  You seem to be one of the few honest ones out there (at least I think you are) so your views would be gratefully received.

Thanks and regards, Jeremy

A: I have always thought and still do think that those DXO tests are nonsense. I do not like them and I never have liked them. I do not even look at them or pay any attention to them. I could care less what some chart tells me. I go by actual results and let me tell you this…

The M9 files are the nicest, richest, and best I have seen from ANY digital camera that has come through here. To be honest, nothing has even come close. An M9 with a good lens and a proper exposure at a decent ISO will blow your socks off. The Sensor in the M9 is actually pretty much the same as the M8 sensor, just a full frame version. Sure, it is not cutting edge technology but guess what? It works and works VERY well.

If an M9 shooter is getting bad results from the camera then either the exposure is off, they are using a shoddy lens or their camera is not calibrated. End of story.

If I sound irritated it is because I am. I have received no less than 20 e-mails about this from worried M9 owners or potential buyers. My suggestion is to look at the results of the camera. If you are not happy with it then do not buy it or if you have one and this DXO test worries you then sell it! I have yet to find a digital that offers me everything the M9 does (and I do not mean features). I am talking about gorgeous image quality, superb build, no hassle simplicity, and the ability to use the best lenses ever made for 35mm.

IMO, the M9 is at the top of the heap for IQ in the 35mm arena. The D3x may have a teeny bit of an advantage in some areas but it’s a damn beast! If you can get along with manual focus, manual operation, and the minimal features of an M9 you should be thrilled with it. Thanks for the question!

Q: Hope you don’t mind me asking …. You put an insane (!!!) amount of work into your site with all that writing and testing that it keeps you busy 24/7 easily.

Your site looks more like a labour of love than an actual paying job. – Which of course is utterly impossible. One simply can’t have that much fun and earn a living at the same time! So, how do you make a living?

After much thought here are the only explanations I can come up with:

1. You are wearing a red/blue spandex dress with cape underneath your jeans and shirt and moonlight as SuperSteve.

2. Either you cloned yourself a couple times over …. or you have at least a split personality disorder.

3. You are secretly the CEO of an evil empire with a large sweat shop full of underaged kids slaving away in your basement.

Either one would explain perfectly how you manage things. So, which one is it? Otherwise I am at a complete loss and can only beg for enlightenment.

A: Hey Harald! No need to beg..ha ha. Love the question. The truth is that this IS a labour of love for me. I love photography and it is a deep passion for me and now that passion has extended to this website!

I wake up at 6am, sit down, answer e-mails, have breakfast, prepare whatever I am going to post for that day and then usually go out and shoot for a while if I can. I come back home, pick up my son from school, make him some food and get back in to my “office”. I then write up drafts or work on reviews. If working on a review I usually go get product pics, record some video and then get to work editing the days photos and video.

All of this takes up most of my day and some of my night 7 days a week. I am now trying to take it easy on Sundays. The 7 day a week thing was starting to burn me out so I decided to keep Sunday light with only 1 post.

I am lucky in two ways.

#1. My wife is awesome and has supported me doing this site from day one. She is in the medical field (NP) and I have been a mix of Mr. Mom, webmaster, and photographer over the past year and 3 months. She could have told me when I started this to go get a real job but she didnt. She gave me one year to try it out which leads me to #2.

#2. After 15 months of the site it has finally started to pay for itself. No more out of pocket expenses to pay for the hosting and maintenance!  This is only because of the awesome people here who help out with buying from my sponsored links to B&H and Amazon. That helps out sooooo much.

Without that this site would not be able to continue and I am always trying to find new ways to make everything here friendly, easy to understand, and loaded with cool features (like the buy/sell, lessons, daily pics, etc)

So to me, while I make VERY little money for myself with this (not enough to “earn a living”), I have a site I love with a few dedicated readers and about 10-15k visitors a day. To me, that is simply awesome.

So I want to take this space to say THANK YOU to all who come here every day or two and especially to those who help me out with your support buy using my sponsors links. If this site ever does make me a decent income I will find a way to give something back, like maybe a Leica M9 giveaway! Wouldn’t that be cool? Maybe by that time though the M10 will be here!

I also want to thank my lovely wife. Without her help, support, and blessing this site would not even be here right now and I would be doing something else. Probably something that I would not enjoy nearly as much!


  1. DxO . . . isn’t the main point of owning a Leica the ability to use those fabulous lenses and tap their creative possibilities? That’s why people like me dream of having a Leica. It ain’t the autofocus, the big zooms, or the image stabilization. 🙂 I have a dslr and several p&s cameras. (The p&s are mostly Canon because the CHDK hack opens up a whole world of possibilities such as time-lapse and super fast shutter speeds.) The dslr can do things that the p&s can do and vice versa.

    The sensor in the dslr is definitely “better” than the sensor in my A650is, but when I print out landscapes taken in good light at 8″x10″ I can’t see any difference. They both look great, and the A650 is so lowly a camera that DxO didn’t even bother to evaluate the sensor. I don’t worry about what the file looks like at 100% on thescreen. 100% on the screen has minimal real world application.

    If you are blessed enough to own a Leica body and lens, don’t worry about what DxO says about the sensor. Trust your eyes.

  2. Hi Steve, I stumbled across your site through a you tube video a few months back when researching the Leica X1. Like many people I have since bookmarked your site and keep returning for more. For me, you make photography fun and interesting again. I want to see other people’s photos and be inspired. I also love your honest no nonsense reviews of gear and your infectious enthusiasm. Keep up the great work.

    Also I totally agree with Tamalematt’s comment, you should join some other international affiliate schemes so us foreigners can help you fund the site! Amazon.co.uk, jacobsdigital.co.uk and cliftoncameras.co.uk would be a start but there are loads more I can suggest if your interested.

    p.s picked up my X1 today and planning a 3 month trip through Latin America so will hopefully have some great pics to share with everyone along the way.

  3. Hi Steve – If you make money by people purchasing products via your website, than you should think of establishing partnerships with companies out side of the U.S. I live in Canada and would love to support your site by linking my purchases on-line through you, but because I don’t purchase products from the States I can not. Maybe you would benefit from finding Canadian partners, such as Henry’s, Vistek, or cameracanadadotcom.

    Just a thought!

  4. Steve, Wednesday Q&A and Friday cool links are some of my favorite pieces of you website. Keep up the great work!

  5. Certain cameras and lenses yield a certain look, like a signature. I like the look of the files from the Leica and Nikon. That’s all that matters. Personal tastes.

  6. I am a Canon shooter, have a ton of money invested in Canon through the years, will most likely never shoot a Leica body (although I have some Leitz lenses for my 5D Mark ii)… However, your site is one of my most visited photo sites. That is a credit to your ability to generate great content, and introduce me to some incredible photographs through your inspiration blogs. Thank you so much, and keep up the good work.

  7. I’ll chime in too…I look forward to reading your site every day and really appreciate the time and effort you put into it. I’m a regular B&H and Amazon person and am happy to use your links.

    Glad that your site is steadily gaining more and more readers…looks like you’ve found your niche for sure! Just curious, do you still pursue free-lance photography work on a regular basis? It seems like you would be hard pressed to find the time anymore!

  8. Best Q&A Wed yet!

    I suppose after hearing it a few thousand times the “thanks for making my life better” comment loses it’s impact Steve, but I’m going to say it anyway! Thanks for doing what you do, and a big THANK YOU to your wife for enabling this site!

    Having spent many many years as both a commercial photographer, and then a portrait/wedding shooter I burned out. What was once a fun, enriching hobby for me had turned into a daily grind that I resented. I put the Hassy and SLR equipment away, traded in a Contax, and bought a Digilux1 for all purpose shooting.

    Found your site a few months back as I was contemplating taking this hobby a little more serious (very cautiously I might add). Your enthusiasm is infectious! All of a sudden I’ve got this beautiful M8.2 and a pile of Leica links in my favorites tab on my laptop. After ten years of neglecting my passion I feel it again and it’s strong as ever. I’m having a blast shooting the M and it is for the most part due to the information and instruction I get from this website.

    Anxiously awaiting an Elmar-M 24mm review. I’ve read and reread your 24 ‘lux review, but as breathtaking as that lens is, it’s way out of my financial abilities right now.

    Keep up the great work!


  9. Steve,

    Thanks for an inspiring, informative, passionate, stimulating site.

    Frankly, I’m amazed and bemused that so many ‘photographers’ spend so much time arguing the toss about technical performance charts and other esoteric gobbledy-gook. For example did Eugène Atget, Bert Hardy, Robert Cappa, et al concern themsleves and worry about such things? Does William Eggleston or David Baliey? Er, no.

    They had/have a passion and interest, getting hold of the best gear they could afford (often secondhand), learned how it worked, went out into the world, used their eyes and took pictures. Looking at the results did they then say to themsleves: “Heavens, I can’t use any of this, there’s so much distortion/chromatic aberation/blur it’s rubbish.” No. They just got on with their passion – and we’re all the richer for their vision.

    Currently in London’s Natonal Portrait Gallery there is an exhibiton of Erving Penn’s work, spanning seven decades. Are the photographs technically perfect? No. They are simply stunning.

    If one wants to spend time navel-gazing and investgating MTF lens charts, specifications and arguing to the enth-degree about whether A or B is better than X or Y, fine. Frankly, I’d rather spend my time observing and recording our world as I see it with whatever comes to hand – and yes, I am fortunate to be able to use decent gear. But the gear I’ve chosen is just a tool for my needs within my budget. Modern cameras and lenses take quality images. Vintage cameras and lenses take quality images. Within reason it’s not the gear you use, it’s you. Don’t lose sight of this.

    Venture out. Look around. Take photos. Share. Enjoy. End of Story.

    Brian Atherton
    Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, UK

  10. On the DXO marks for the M9, take a different perspective. The M9 mainly looses its points on high ISO, that’s what we knew already. The difference with a D700 in color depth and dynamic range is around 3%, a bit more for a D3X, impossible to see in a normal picture. So, weigh the benefits of small size and lens quality versus the agility of a two ton truck, … read a full size DSLR with monster zoom.

  11. Regarding the DXO Tests – I would’t say they are nonsense, it’s just that their relevance seems way overrated. From an analog perspective they are just testing the films specs – also taking into account it’s performance when pushed (high ISO), but not its characteristics in real world developement (post processing), also missing a measurement for its sharpness – like one would probably do when comparing two brands of film…
    So – there are ‘better’ sensors out there from other manufacturers, but unlike film you can’t stick them into an M8/M9, so what’s the point? Besides leaving out the impact of lenses for real world IQ – unfortunately my optically superior M Lenses won’t fit my D700… and then there is always the actual handling of a camera.

  12. Steve, thank YOU for this wonderful site! I think it’s great that you have the opportunity to do this and that you are obviously enjoying it so much – as are we!

  13. Terry, I said to ME those DXO tests are nonsense, and I still say they are. I have no need for them and never will. They tell me nothing for real world shooting. Period.

  14. The DxOMark tests are not nonsense, but it is important to read them correctly. The imaging score is composed of three things: 1) High ISO, 2) Dynamic range, 3) Color Fidelity. Notice what’s not on the list? Sharpness.

    The AA filter on the Leica M8 (and M9) is minimal to non-existant (it’s also CCD based). While in theory this means the CCD is less noise-prone, in practice (since it operates at a higher voltage), it is the reverse. Also advances in AA and microlenses have offset traditional disadvantages of CMOS with respect to noise. This means the Leicas trade off High ISO (which is a major component of the score) for sharpness (which is not on the score at all). Similarly, some color fidelity and dynamic range marks may be compromised by the use of a CCD and minimal AA filters.

    The reason things like sharpness are not tested is because this is a feature of the entire system (camera, lens, sensor) and DxOMark is strictly a sensor test.

    Nikons will not perform as well in pure sharpness tests as a Leica system. The reason is simple: there is not enough market in the Nikon world to justify $2000+ manual focus optics and manufacturing and design compromises in the lens must ensue. Also remember the Nikon is a SLR design and a retrofocal element is needed to clear the reflex mirror.

  15. My thanks also to you and your lovely wife. Both of you have added to the quality of my life. I look forward to reading your posts daily.

    Thanks again!


  16. Thanks for your labor of love and please let me know when you are giving away the Leica. I have went to B&H website frequently, they never have it in stock and it only shows where one person has left a review, so where do you buy one at? Are they just not shipping them to the US, or do you have a secret supplier.

    Thanks again for your great work, I subscribe to the feed using NetNewsWire on my Mac and get updates daily. You have the best Photo website on the net, and the information and reviews are real world, not just specifications. Thanks so much for everything.

  17. It is wonderful to have an amazing wife, isn’t it? Mine understood my desire to leave my job to be a full time stay at home dad to our beautiful new baby and encourages me to pursue photography on the side as well. Behind every great man…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.