Upcoming Reviews…Leica Monochrom and the Nikon D800 with Zeiss 35 1.4!


Leica Monochrom and Nikon D800 with Zeiss 35 1.4

Hello everyone and Happy Friday to you all! This weekend I will be a busy man as I have a Nikon D800 and Zeiss 35 1.4 in hand to test out for the next week or so. THIS THING IS A BEAST! After shooting with all of these small mirrorless cameras and a Leica M9 for so long this D800 feels like a monstrosity and my wrist starts to hurt after 20 minutes of use BUT that is just because I am used to the small guys. Take a look at the image above with the D800 parked next to the OM-D and 12mm. The D800 makes the little Olympus look tiny and this is one reason why I appreciate those great Olympus lenses. Small size AND great quality.

But as you may well be aware, this Nikon D800 is a 36 Megapixel machine capable of beautiful rich quality. I have not yet taken it out for serious shooting (hope to get out this weekend with it) but did snap a few “snapshots” in my yard and around my house. The RAW files bring my aging iMac to its knees but other than that there is nothing to complain about. The files seem to be gorgeous. Rich full frame color quality, depth and some of that Zeiss magic from the $1800 35 1.4.

The very 1st snap I shot with the D800 to see how the image quality looked with the Zeiss wide open. 

This would be an amazing combo for serious pro work. Probably a live convert shooters dream. Then again, I am still happy with my Leica but you can not ignore the fact that the D800 and Zeiss 35 is still $2k less than a new M9. body. It appears that for all out image quality the D800 may be THE ticket for those searching for high res full frame magic. Maybe the M10 will share a similar sensor? Hmmmm. Look for a D800 review soon 🙂

Again, wide open to test DOF and Bokeh/Sharpness – click it for larger

The Leica Monochrom

To date I have only had an hour with this camera, and I really liked it. I liked it enough that I put my name down on Ken Hansen’s pre-order list. (you can get on his list by e-mailing him at khpny19@aol.com). I have been trying to get a review sample and just found out today that I will have a Monochrom next week and I will have ONE WEEK with it to review it. I was hoping for 3 (for a 3 week road trip to test the camera) but one week will do for a review. I will NOT be getting the new 50 to try so I will be testing it out with other glass.

So look for  this one in about 2-3 weeks from today. I will do as much as I can while I have it and I am excited to put it through its paces and see how it differs from the M9 when it comes to B&W performance.

So check back here often for Monochrom and D800 updates! 

Monochrom Pre-Orders – B&H Photo, PopFlash, Dale Photo


  1. What happened to this thread… no more updates?! You ended with ‘check back often for more updates’…

    • Not sure what you are asking. After this I posted a D800 and Zeiss review and the lengthy Monochrom review. All accessible through the review links or search.

  2. Steve – I know they’re totally different systems, but i have always been curious regarding a comparison between the Leica Summilux 35 ASPH (FLE) + M9 versus the Zeiss 35/1.4 mounted on a Nikon or Canon full frame camera. Any thoughts?
    Love your site by the way, and even the emails i get daily!!

  3. hey steve, I am glad someone heard your cries and is loaning you a MM.

    have fun.

  4. Steve…..I have the D800E on order…I needed a new underwater camera. I had a week shooting with the D800 and was blown away with the image quality…my new iMac handles the files with no problem. I am keeping my M9, though. I still feel the M9 is the better camera for travel, and more fun to shoot. I will soon have the best of both worlds…the M9 for travel, and the D800 for my professional work and underwater!! Looking forward to your review!!



    • Scotty… Well said !
      The Nikon D800 is a professional camera whereas the Leica M series is predominately an amatuer camera. Both capable of supurb results.
      I use the D3s and can honestly say it is the best camera for my job and a Leica M9 would NOT be able to deliver , but for fun , travel and street the M9 is a great camera.

      • give me a break , man. seriously, the Nikon is a great cam but it is not revolutionary or any kind of gamechanger, it is just an updated version of the D3X.
        or even better it is just a FF version of the D7000 ,I see their native pixel level image quality exactly the same.

        just don’t exaggerate it.

  5. I’m sure it is too late to ask but ask I must. I sense that the image quality of the Nikon D800 review might fall short of the M9 with quality Leica glass. I don’t believe that this makes the D800 an inferior photographic tool. Instead, my request is, can you try the Nikon D800E with the manual focus 50mm 1.2g lens? There are two issues that make the D800 focusing soft. One; is the anti-alias filter (to get rid of moire) and two; the auto-focus prime Nikon lenses. Beside the 85mm 1.4g, it seems that the other prime lenses are soft when wide open. The D800E coupled with the manual focus 50mm 1.2g should alleviate any softness. If tack sharp, this combo should be a Leica killer.

  6. Steve,

    Do you sell your photos? The flower pic above would make a great print.

  7. Instead of a Canon 1 DX, I am now contemplating a Nikon D800 with a couple of pieces of glass. Why can’t I run Canon and Nikon? : )

    • David, I do run both Canon and Nikon. My working cameras, for police evidentiary photos, are a pair of 7D Canons, which I own. During my personal time, I may use a 7D, or an older 40D, but usually use an original Canon 5D or Nikon F6 or FM3A. (These Nikons shoot film, of course.) Future DSLR purchases could be either brand, though I am content, for now, and am looking at compacts and mirror-less cameras for travel, but there is no urgency.

      The down side of mixing brands is that menus and controls differ, which can cause momentary confusion sometimes, if one forgets which camera is in-hand. This is particularly noticeable when I try to shoot with my wife’s Nikon D7000, and suddenly wish to change something like ISO. (I never use auto ISO.) Charging different batteries can also be a hassle. Our several chargers occupy quite a bit of space.

      • Could you tell us more about a job? It’s something different than a fashion or fine art photographer for sure 🙂

        Are you a photographer hired by the police department, a crime scene technician, or a police officer?

        • I am a police patrol officer. The photography is specialized duty, along with collecting fingerprint evidence. Instead of running calls for service within a small portion of a single district, like most patrol units, I cover photo and print calls in two districts. When there are no photo or print calls, it is understood that I will take care of other types of calls. At the patrol officer level, I will not usually photograph murder scenes, or fatal crash scenes, as there are specialized units for those. My typical “client” is a female victim of domestic violence.

          An APS-C DSLR of 6 megapixels or more suffices for this job. I upload large fine JPEGs into a proprietary program. The program will accept any JPEGs, but large fine is recommended. I do just about everything with a my 10-22mm zoom and 100mm macro lenses.

          My formal training was with Christopher Duncan. (His book on the subject of crime scene photography is available from Amazon, which can, of course, be accessed through the link on this site, to benefit this site.) I had already been a police patrol officer for 26 years when I started the photography part in 2010.

    • as a multi-system user, I ‘d say just dont waste your money go for the one you already have good glasses for.
      I was a pure Nikon user but when the 5D2 was first out , I decided to go dual mount kit and initially I was very happy then , though recently I ‘ve found Nikon/Canon systems are too similar to worth keeping both + they just always leapfrogging each other and this time Nikon won does not mean next time Nikon also wins.

      and I am sure Canon will answer to the D800 as Nikon will also answer to the MK3 , so if you like a D800-kind of camera , just wait a bit (maybe till Photokina) to decide if you really want to ditch your Canon glass for the D800E.
      I think D800+ OMD or NEX7 or Leica M9p combo makes very much sense but the D800 + Canon combo does not make any sense , they are too identical, I have compared 24mp (NEX7 and A900) vs my D800 many times and found a bit more extra resolution do nothing for me in real life.
      if you want to see really significantly better detail resolving power (compared to 22-24mp sensor), you need to get at least a 48mp sensor (preferably also larger sized sensor).

  8. Hi Steve,

    thank You for the appetizers.
    These first two pics are kind of a manifest, that this combo D800 & Zeiss 35/1.4 is a real winner.

    Keep up the good work.
    Best regards from Germany,

  9. I look forward to the reviews. The Monochrom really has my interest, and I am also interested in Zeiss lenses for DSLRs. I very nearly purchased a pre-owned Nikon-fit Zeiss a few months ago, but another buyer made his move while I was still wondering whether to buy. (It was actually the 35/2, not the 35/1.4.)

    Thanks, Steve!

  10. Buy new gear, buy new gear. Take amazing photos simply by spending yet more cash. How easy it all is. LOL

    Me? I’d rather learn the craft than just throw wasted cash at it living in an endless cycle of upgrade frustration. Once upon a time in a far off land photography used to be about LEARNING instead of buying. Hey-ho.

  11. I shoot with the D300s and tried the OMD in a shop. After about 2 minutes playing with it I just wanted to put it back on the shelf because my fingers started to cramp up trying to hit these tiny unresponsive buttons. I also started to feel skin irritations between my index and middle fingers because of that strap lug chafing my bones. With a grip that may have been a different story. I don’t know. Camera ergonomics are a very personal thing and very important to me. Steve is used to small cameras and I am used to bigger ones but in the end photography should be enjoyable no matter what gear one uses.

  12. Hi Steve, when you review the D800, can you write about how you found manual focusing the Zeiss lens? I own the zeiss 25 f/2.8 and find it easy to focus on my D7000/D700, but used to own the Zeiss 50 f/1.4 and found it really hard to focus and always got soft pictures using the viewfinder to focus. I’m wondering how the 35mm is. Thanks!

    • the 35f1.4 is just like the 85f1.4 , quite easy to MF if you are used to MF-ing.
      but the 35 is extremely front heavy and does not balance on a D800 very well (IMHO at least).
      so, I ‘d say if you shoot mostly at f2.8 and on or f2 is fast enough get the 35f2ZF2, which is just as sharp as the huge f1.4 version from f2.8 and on.
      oh and if you like 25mm , get the Zeiss T*2/25mm ZF2 , which is just as good or even a bit better than the 35f1.4ZF2 and imo, the 25f2 is much smaller.

  13. Hi Steve. How old is your aging iMac. I have an 800E on order and was thinking of buying an iMac. Do you think a new i7 iMac would be up to the task.

  14. By the look of the pics maybe it’s worth the weight challenge to actually get some awesome pics and use the small cameras for travel birthday parties etc

    • Ok I just spent time looking at D800 pics they look weird color off? Muddy? Could be me hang on to your point and shoots

  15. The BEAST looks like a very impressive monster. I have the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 that I use on a 5Dii and it is definitely one or my favorite lenses. I am always WOWED when the images come up on the screen.

    • get it for your Canon or Nikon ff( for an APS-C body, I dont recommend this Zeiss35f1.4), it is the best 35mm f1.4 prime out there for a FF if you dont mind the size.

      I sold it because it was just too large for a prime and almost ridiculously ugly looking but it was the best lens optically, much better than the Nikon AFS35f1.4G.
      The Zeiss is very very sharp lens wide open but I tend to shoot it around f2.8-f4 on a Nikon or a Canon ff body so for my needs I just found the smaller T*2/35ZF2 and or ZE would be better suited(the 35f2ZF2 was actually just as sharp as the big and ugly 35f1.4 from f2.8 and on).

  16. What a beast

    It should come with a free trolly to further enhance the user’s experience

    But that sensor in it is said to be as amazing as the size of the camera

    • Yeah, you need to be professional weightlifter to use it, also it is not allowed to be taken into the planes because it is to heavy for airplanes to lift from the ground.

      Nikon D800 (and 700 before it and equivalent Canon’s) are not a small cameras by any stretch of imagination, but there not anywhere close as are made here to be, I mean people use those cameras for weeks in the most difficult situations such as reporting from the war zones and also different expeditions etc etc.

      It is not a camera that you can take sneaky photos of the people on the street but then again this is not the purpose of this camera, it is superb for landscapes, studio work and pretty much any professional task, gets the shot with plenty of details and wide dynamic range without any trouble, the only thing that stands in the way of getting the perfect shot then is the person behind the camera

      • And just to put things in the perspective:

        Nikon D800 body (900g) + Nikon 50mm 1.4 (227g)= 1127g

        Leica M9 body (585g) + Summilux 50mm 1.4 ASPH (460g)= 1045g

        so the weight difference is 82 grams, never thought that 82 grams are so heavy

        • Your Summilux seems to be the chrome version, the black one is some 340g. So the weight difference is rather in the 200g category. Still not too much one would think, considering that the ergonomics (grip) of the Nikon make it probably easier to hold.

          • yeah, it is the silver one but yes, I really don’t think that even 200g makes any tangible difference even for the whole day shooting. DSLRs don’t look pretty but are very functional with as you say a proper grip that enables you to use it comfortably, I guess that for me it is important to get good images from the camera rather than having a pretty retro camera that I can get a hold of.

            Also the whole logic dslrs have huge zooms is a bit flawed there are certainly big zooms with image stabilization built in and they are both bigger and heavier that rangefinder lenses, But what’s the weight of Leica’s 70-200 2.8 zoom, oh, yeah the don’t make one. So you can use Nikon D whatever and Canon 5d or 1d with small primes but it is nice to also have alternative. Likewise with high frame rates and sophisticated metering-no one is forcing you to use them I almost never use burst mode, just not my style but nice option to have in case it is needed

          • The Nikon quickly gets heavier once you start using 35mm 1.4 or 85 1.4, or a nice 14-24mm lens. But besides the weight the size plays a role to me. I owned a D700 and while I loved the output I had too many days when I left the camera at home because I didn’t want to carry it. The M9 I kept around my neck almost all the time. I loved it on trips because I never felt that I would carry a camera but I always had great quality available when I needed it. I would not get the D800 for casual walk around photography but as a dedicated camera that I would use when I want to take photos. I own a PhaseOne camera and I don’t mind the weight because I only use it when I have a specific shot in mind and in these situations it is much lighter than my 8×10 camera. To me weight is relative to what I want to do. Sometimes only my iPhone has the right size. I would like to know how many D800 users would actually ever print larger than 16×20″. I know a lot of people with pro equipment who never print at all. D!RK

          • I actually posted a reply along the same lines but for some reason it awaits moderation-maybe there is a engine that detects comments not saying leica is wonderful and those needs to go through additional check :).

            On a more serious note-14-24 is not a light lens by any means nor is 70-200 2.8 vr, however-leica doesn’t have equivalent lenses so the fact that you can have them as choice if you need them can only be plus. Also 85mm 1.4-there is no equivalent with rangefinders and Noctilux lenses are big and heavy-that’s the physics.

            In terms of lugging d800 or canon equivalents around for casual shooting, well these cameras were not designed with that in mind as you also hinted. These cameras are durable, reliable tools.

            I am not in any way trying to say that one system is superior than the other, I just find the whole discourse “slrs with big zooms are heavy and you don’t think while using them” a bit tiring and largely inaccurate.

            I think that it is great that you can buy camera like d800 that gives almost medium format quality with amazing dynamic range and more than enough megapixels for the money that they are sold.

          • To each his own (as the saying goes). You see lots of plusses of DSLRs. I see lots of plusses of DRFs.

  17. I would be interested in a comparison between an M9 and MM files after both have had grain added in Nik Silver Effects. While the quality of MM will probably be better I wonder if Nik will destroy this advantage. I always use Nik grain as I feel the grain helps to hold a picture together just like it does in film. Cheers. http://Www.julianward.co.nz

  18. It is good that you will test with current Leica lenses because most here won’t buy the new 50mm anyway. Looking forward to it. I hope you will put a 50 Lux on it, not just the Hyperprime. D!RK

  19. Could you in theory create a preset in Efex to convert any raw to a MM-ish B&W photo?

  20. Steve, I’m so glad to see your reviewing the D800 and very interested to see what your thoughts are. As a print maker, I have a serious need for the type of resolution that the D800 seems to be able to offer, even approaching medium format territory. A lot of my work involves making 40×60″ prints or larger and my D7000, although a wonderful camera in its own right, just doesn’t meet my pixel peeping eyes. As you know I just jumped in to the OM-D pool as I also got tired of lugging around a big heavy camera everywhere I go, so the plan is to shift to the OM-D for my everyday/travel camera kit, sell the D7000 and upgrade to the D800 once nikon gets all the first run quirks ironed out(lock-ups, green lcds). Anyway, looking forward to your experience with the beast!

    Quick question, any chance you’ve had a chance to test out any of the converters on the market to use nikon glass on the OM-D?

  21. Steve:
    You must test the Leica Monochrom with the Zeiss Sonnar f1.5 and show us some samples. This is a great pairing of Classic drawing abilities with a modern high tech sensor. The result should be amazing.

  22. Great Steve! I was thinking about if you are doing something around the D800. I’m thinking about to buy one instead of the M9 because of it’s price and image quality. As I’m used to the bigger Canon 1D Series, the D800 is only 2/3 of weight and size but you’re right. Compared to the OM-D or the Leica it’s still big and heavy. The Zeiss seems to be a good choice although I would prefer the Nikon AF-S 24, 35, 50 and 85 all at 1.4. The Nikon 50 1.8G seems to be nice and light with good image quality for the D800, too but I haven’t tested that out as it’s diffucult to get your hands on a D800 at the moment…
    Cheers! Martin (http://www.pholux.com/)

  23. It would be great if you did some straight comparisons – take the exact same photo with each camera using a tripod. Show the M9M image, desaturated (flat BW conversion, no other adjustments) M9 image, and M9 Silver Efex stylized image.

    • +2
      And how about converting the B&W from the MM back to color? Would the M9 MM be a better high ISO camera than the M9?

      • Now that would be a feat! Reminds me of an old family photo of my grandfather that was obviously black and white but was then colored by hand using colored charcoal or pencil for some key elements.

  24. Hi Steve, I’m really looking forward to the D800 review as I ordered one after selling the D700 in February.
    And you know, the D800 is actually 100 grams lighter than the D700, so you must have weak arms he…he :-).

  25. Looking forward to both reviews, hope to upgrade one of my Nikon D200’s with a D800e this year. Would love a Leica Monochrom too, have some Leica glass but no body at the moment to use it on. Keep looking at secondhand M8’s and M8.2’s but this Monochrom has really set my creative juices a light. The wife may be the deciding factor, she thinks I already have to many cameras with Large Format Ebony, Medium Format Hasselblad, Nikon SLR’s and a Nikon V1 system. Surprisingly she has already suggested we put the Nikon D800e purchase on hold and think about a Leica M9 or the new Monochrom. Difficulty is I know I can make money out of the D800e as I have with my D200’s not so sure about a Leica, that would be the heart leading the brain.

    Keep up the good work, a truly great site you have here with some real world reviews.

    • Do you ever have trouble landing your solid gold private jet on any of your yachts?

  26. Very exciting!!!

    Please do enough B&W conversions with the D800 so you are able to make a meaningful evaluation vis-à-vis the MM.

    Yes, some of us are interested in that comparison. I only wish it were a D800E model.

    Thanks as always,


    • I’ll second that! I need to replace all of the Nikon gear I sold to get my M9 and now feel the need to get a second body. I’m debating new MM or used chrome M9P or Nikon 800E with a 70-200. It’s a heart vs head thing.

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