Leica Q (Typ 116) compared to Sigma DP2 Quattro - Am I really bidding on a Leica M8?

Leica Q (Typ 116) compared to Sigma DP2 Quattro - Am I really bidding on a Leica M8?
'Add in the fact that the Leica is MUCH better at high(er) ISO's and a faster camera as well and it's clear to me which is the most useful camera. However, the fact that the Leica costs 4x as much hasn't escaped me.'
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Fuji X Pro 1 - Leica M8

There are more samples emerging from the Fuji X Pro 1, including raw.


There does seem to be a pattern emerging, in that the camera seems to be very good at high ISO's but produces somewhat soft files. This is surprising for a camera with no AA filter, but I imagine is the result of the new sensor and software noise reduction. That softness is evident even on the raw files. To be honest those who have used DSLR's with pretty strong AA filters probably wouldn't notice the difference, but compared to cameras I have used without an AA filter or with a pretty weak one its noticeable to me.

Consequently it confirms to me that this isn't a camera for me. Its the wrong way round. I like cameras with great low ISO performance, very sharp with lots of colour "pop". I can see the X Pro 1 being snapped up by wedding photographers for example, but maybe not by the landscape community.

Leica M8

Yesterday I was working with some old Leica M8 files, and nothing could be more different. I've always regarded the M8 as producing the sharpest files I've ever seen, I always thought it was slightly crisper than the M9. Some odd colour occasionally without the use of AA filters, but the files have real impact on a screen. They are also capable of being blown up quite large. I compared some of these files yesterday blown up to Sony NEX-7 size, and they still looked sharper!!

These days you buy an S/H M8 and a couple of Voigtlander, or even old Leica, lenses for about the same price as an X Pro 1 outfit. Prices for used M8's have stayed the same for a long time now, and probably won't fall any more, so buying one, using it for a couple of years and selling it probably wouldn't result in a loss.

It is of course completely useless at high ISO's and you have to deal with some moire, dust spots and of course the odd colour. But for high impact, ultra sharp files, with the real benefit of an unfettered sensor, its difficult to beat.

Leica M8

Leica M8

Time to "rationalise" my cameras again? - or not?

Leica M8, M9, Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron, 75mm f/2.5 Heliar, Zeiss 50mm f/2 T* Planar, Nikon D7000, D5100, 10-24mm, 16-85mm, 35mm f/1.8, 55-300mm, 50mm f/1.2 MF.

I get this idea about cutting my cameras back to "what I really need" on a regular basis, but they keep on coming,  as well as going.

At the moment however I've very happy with what I've got. Despite my comments about the Nikons making me think about what to do with my Leicas, I would be very loathe to part with them.

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar  M9 28mm f/2 Ultron

I was briefly DSLR-free for a very short time earlier this year but the Nikon D5100 and D7000 have proved to be great cameras and I'm enjoying both using them and the results I'm getting from them.

Nikon D7000 D5100 10-24mm 16-85mm 35mm f/1.8 55-300mm

I also briefly was without a m4/3 camera for a while. However that didn't last long either. In fact I've just ordered a pair of non-polarised sunglasses to be able to use my Olympus E-PL1 without the screen and EVF blacking out on me. I'm also very much looking forward to the Olympus E-P3 and the 12mm f/2, 45mm f/1.8 and Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 lenses I have on order.

Olympus Pen E-PL1 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

Unlike when I had lots of cheaper cameras, this has amounted to a substantial finanacial investment. So do I need all of these? No of course I don't. They are however, in their different ways, giving me great enjoyment in what is both my job and my passion, and even though I might feel guilty about keeping them all occasionally, the pleasure I get from using them outweighs any other considerations.

High resolution stitched images

L1000072
Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

By combining images together using the Photomerge function in Photoshop, I'm able to get very high resolution images from cameras that have lower pixel counts. The reason I have been able to use m4/3 for the last couple of years for my landscape stock work has to a large extent been as a result of this.

Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron lens
Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

The M8 has an image size of only 10MP (28MB) and since many of the libraries I contribute to have a 48MB minimum, this is a much more satisfactory alternative than interpolation.

I often only use 3 or 4 images with the intention of making the final result look like any other image. i.e not a panoramic shape. By doing this I usually get a file of between 50 & 70MB from the M8, equivalent to an image taken with an 18-25MP camera.

Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron lens
Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

Because there's no upsizing or interpolation taking place, the file is of very high quality and the increased resolution is genuine. As you can see in these examples I've shown the out of camera jpgs at the top, and the final stitched image at the bottom, which I've put together from the raw files and edited and adjusted in Photoshop.

Yesterday I shot a few with the Nikon D7000 and 24mm f/2.8D lens.

Nikon D7000 24mm f/2.8D lens
Nikon D7000 24mm f/2.8D 

This produced images of around 100MB or the equivalent of a 35MP camera.

Nikon D7000 24mm f/2.8D lens
Nikon D7000 24mm f/2.8D 

Nikon D7000 24mm f/2.8D lens
Nikon D7000 24mm f/2.8D 

A few thing to take care of with this -

Its important to leave a good overlap.
Its vital to keep the same exposure and focus point for all images.
You have to be comfortable with the transform tools in Photoshop as all images need some warping and straightening.
This process can slightly soften the image so some sharpening needs to be added.
Lenses from 35mm or 35mm equivalent upwards give the best results. There's often too much distortion with lenses wider than this.

If you are quick and there's not too much movement you can include people and action in the shots.

Leica X1
Leica X1

Cotswold Lavender - Leica M8, Olympus E-PL1


Video shot hand-held with Olympus E-PL1 14-42mm kit zoom - edited in iMovie.

For no obvious reason there is a lavender farm in the Cotswolds. At this time of the year, just before harvesting, it is at its most intense colour.

Olympus E-PL1 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Olympus E-PL1 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar - Multi image panoramic stitch.

Olympus E-PL1 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Olympus E-PL1 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

After 5 minutes I was thinking I had brought the wrong cameras - Olympus E-PL1 and 14-42mm kit lens and the Leica M8 plus Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron and 75mm f/2.5 Heliar. I was having trouble with the Olympus viewfinder and focusing on the lavender using the M8 rangefinder system wasn't easy. Using one of the Nikons and a zoom would have been much easier.

However, I didn't have the option so carried on. In the end I was pleased with the images. The Voigtlander 75mm on the Olympus worked very well.

Olympus E-PL1 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Olympus E-PL1 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

I also used the 14-42mm kit lens on the Olympus. I've always rated this lens and this copy seems especially good.

Olympus E-PL1 14-42mm
Olympus E-PL1 14-42mm kit zoom

 Olympus E-PL1 14-42mm
Olympus E-PL1 14-42mm kit zoom

There was a tour party from Japan there also. I've never seen so many Nikon D5100's in one place before! A large proportion of the group were using them. Interesting to see that in about 100 people they were all using compacts or DSLR's. Not a single CSC. Doesn't prove anything of course but interesting.

The two girls in the following picture went and put on "posh frocks" and were photographing each other in the lavender for about an hour.

Olympus E-PL1 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Olympus E-PL1 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

In terms of cameras yesterday was a bit problematic. I ended the day unsure as to where to go. I was a bit frustrated with the Olympus and using the EVF, and focusing with the Leica was difficult. Part of the problem is my back is still not great, which is one of the reasons I didn't take either of the Nikons.

I'm a little unsure as to where to go next. What I really want, and have always wanted, is a small, light rangefinder styled camera, but with AF, decent sized sensor, good lenses and an optical viewfinder.  There doesn't seem to be anything like that available, nor does there seem to be anything like that on the horizon. I really want to find one camera I can work with and stick with rather than use a lot of cameras that give me part of what I want. The Nikon D5100 is OK for size and weight, but the zooms are heavy. The Leicas are wonderful, but there are times when I want AF. The 4/3 cameras I use are the closest but I'm having problems with EVF's and the polarised sunglasses I have to wear.

Ho-Hum!

Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron
Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

The "forgotten" Leica M8

Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron
Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

The M8 has always had a bit of a bad press. Problems with colour, moire and the need for Leica to issue IR filters for lenses have tended to give it a slightly tarnished reputation. However I've always personally loved the files it produces. I don't use any filters on my lenses and have only ever seen two examples of moire on my pictures. However I don't shoot clothing, which is apparently where the problem occurs.

Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 
Ultron
Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron 

The M9 has a built-in IR filter which cures the moire and colour problems, but the M8 still produces slightly sharper files. Having no AA or IR filter means that the sensor is unhindered by anything. The M8 is pretty useless at high ISO's unlike the M9 but at its base ISO of 160 it produces stunning images. The 10MP files are capable of being interpolated quite dramatically.

Just to give you an idea of what the resolution is like.


Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron 


My first Leica M was an M8 and I sold it when I bought the M9. I always regretted it, though at the time I needed the money. I bought this current one S/H from a dealer, and apart from some scratches on the screen its pretty much in mint condition. Now discontinued they currently sell used for around the £1400-1600 mark and you can pick up S/H Voigtlander lenses fairly cheaply. It is possible to get into the M system for around £2000, which is what I paid for the Nikon D7000 and a couple of zooms. Not cheap, but nowhere near as expensive as an M9 and Leica lenses, and very close in terms of quality. Certainly the results I get from my M8 are superb. Also the camera and lenses bought S/H will probably hold their value.

When I shoot on the M8 I usually interpolate the files to 15MP or 42MB before sending them off to picture libraries. At this size, at base ISO, they are sharper and have better colour than either my Nikons or any m4/3 or other CSC I have used. The Fuji X100 is the only camera that comes close and the M8 probably still beats that for sharpness. (With the proviso about high ISO performance)

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2 Heliar
Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2 Heliar
Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

Leica have just issued a firmware update for the M8. It doesn't do much but its nice to see they still support it. For me and my uses its a very useful camera and I don't feel quite so inclined to wrap it in cotton wool as I do with the M9!

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2 Heliar
Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar 

Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron
Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron
Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron
Multi-image panoramic stitch

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2 Heliar
Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Multi-image panoramic stitch

Devon with Nikons and Leicas.

Nikon D5100 16-85mm zoom
Nikon D5100 16-85mm Zoom

I have just returned from a weeks trip to Devon. A week of good weather and beautiful light resulted in a large number of images I'm very pleased with.

Nikon D7000 55-300mm zoom
Nikon D7000 55-300mm Zoom

At the start of the week I began shooting with the Nikons, and at the end I was shooting with the Leicas finally ending up with just the M9 and Zeiss 50mm f/2 T* Planar.

Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron
Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

Leica M9 Zeiss 50mm f/2 T* Planar
Leica M9 Zeiss 50mm f/2 T* Planar

I also shot a lot of video, using predominantly the D5100 and 16-85mm zoom. 

However I've returned home to find problems with my internet connection and until BT get round to sorting that out its too slow to upload to YouTube or Vimeo. 

The week was somewhat spoiled by my back going into spasm on the journey down and a somewhat noisy cough, courtesy of my sister-in-law!! However despite these "distractions" it was a useful week for picture-taking though somewhat harder (and more painful) work than usual due to my mobility problems.

I'll go into more detail on how each camera and lens performed in later posts.


Nikons D7000, D5100 and no more Micro Four Thirds.

Leica M8, M9, Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron, 75mm f/2.5 Heliar, Zeiss 50mm f/2 T* Planar, Nikon D7000, D5100, 10-24mm, 16-85mm, 35mm f/1.8, 55-300mm, 50mm f/1.2 MF.

So the transition is complete. Yesterday I sold my the last of my m4/3 cameras and lenses plus the Fuji X100 on ebay. Its optical viewfinders all the way now.

I have my four cameras, as this is my superstition, after having two cameras out of action on a trip to France and the 3rd. one I was left with struggling with a winder problem.

Its two Leicas and two Nikons with lots of shared lenses. I'm happy with the image quality from all of them. I'm happy with the handling of the Nikons especially. They are certainly very fast, very efficient and a delight to use.

I would have liked them to be lighter, but anything lighter will have an EVF, and I would rather have to carry a bit of extra weight if it cuts down on the migraine problem.

The D5100 + 16-85mm lens is however a pretty light outfit and should prove ideal for long distance work.

So enough testing, enough buying and selling. All I need now is some sunshine to start using all of this to take some pictures with.


Leicas M9 and M8 at Stratford-upon-Avon

Leica M9 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron
Leica M9 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron 
The River Avon

Leica M9 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron
Leica M9 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron
Stratford-upon-Avon racecourse

Leica M9 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron
Leica M9 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron Multi-image panoramic stitch
Restaurant cruise on the River Avon

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar Multi-image panoramic stitch
New apartments next to the racecourse.

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Spring wheat

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar
Lock on the River Avon

This was quite a long walk and carrying the two cameras was still comfortable but I was pretty tired at the end. Not using m4/3 is going to increase the weight, so I'm probably going to get a 16-85mm zoom for the Nikon 5100 for these long-distance trips.

Looking at the pictures on the screen I realised again just how sharp M8 files are. 10MP yes, but capable of being substantially interpolated. I'm sending out the images upsized to 14MP and 41MB at the moment. They could go higher but at this size it still keeps the incredible sharpness. I could go to 18MP easily, but then the files just look like an ordinary camera!!

Two Leicas

Leica M9 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

Yesterday I went out with the M9 fitted with the Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron and the M8 fitted with the Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar to see what it was like. It actually wasn't as heavy as I thought, and was suprisingly comfortable.

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

The less I have to change lenses, the less dust spots I will have to remove and the quicker I can process the images. Leica M9 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

The M8 probably produces slightly sharper images than the M9. There are some colour problems, but I don't use any IR filters on the lenses. Its simple enough to set up a Photoshop ACR raw conversion preset. Since the M8 only produces 10MP files I interpolate the files, before sending them off to picture libraries. Blowing them up to the same size as GH2 files for example they look sharper, which just shows how much difference having no anti-aliasing filter has.

However the M8 is pretty terrible at high ISO's and I doubt I will move it from ISO 160. 

Leica M9 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

I'm planning to use this combination for the majority of my work from now on.

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar  M9 28mm f/2 Ultron

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar  M9 28mm f/2 Ultron

Moving back to optical viewfinders

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar  M9 28mm f/2 Ultron

My S/H Leica M8 arrived yesterday, as did a couple of Voigtlander lenses.

A 28mm f/2 Ultron, which works as a 37/38mm equivalent on the M8.

Leica M9 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

Leica M9 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

Leica M8 Voigtlander 28mm f/2 Ultron

I've never used one of these before and its an excellent lens. I'm not really surprised as every Voigtlander m-mount lens I've used has been good.

The other was a 75mm f/2.5 Heliar. I had one of these before and liked it because its relatively light. It becomes a 100mm equivalent on the M8.

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

Leica M9 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

Leica M8 Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Heliar

Even though this move away from EVF's is not by choice and in many ways is going back to a previous way of working, it does feel like a new start almost. To be honest, its not that much of a problem not using m4/3 and is something I've been thinking about doing anyway. I've always been very enthusiastic about CSC's and m4/3 in particular but a couple of things have been concerning me.

Firstly the move towards increasing miniturisation and the removal of physical controls and their replacement by software. This obviously has implications for me in terms of the amount of time I spend looking at flickering screens and viewfinders, but then I prefer a more manual approach anyway.

Secondly, what I see as more and more compromises on build quality. My GH2 felt cheaper than my GH1. The E-PL2 I bought is certainly less "solid" than my E-PL1. This was brought home to me by using the D5100. It really does feel much better made than my GH2, with only a marginal increase in weight and bulk.

Its often been said that CSC's etc. will eventually replace DSLR's. That's something that I would have perhaps agreed with, but now I'm not so sure. If the direction is going to be the GF3 and the NEX-C3 rather than the E-P2 and GF1 then I can see many either keeping or moving back to DSLR's.

Maybe the pundits who say that the real market for CSC's etc. is compact camera users are right after all. Those of us who want them to be modern AF technology rich Leicas are actually probably in the minority, and always have been. There are those of us who drool over cameras like the Fuji X100, and probably make a lot of noise on the forums, but how many of us have gone out and bought one? Its probably a lot less than the people who are going to buy a Sony NEX-C3.

Fashion and technology are notoriously fickle. Mobile phones were getting smaller and smaller but then smartphones appeared and because of all the new uses they had to get bigger, otherwise they would be impossible to use. Maybe there will be a similar development for cameras. Nikon, Canon and Pentax are proving that DSLR's don't have to be heavy, bulky and large, though getting lenses down to equivalent weights and sizes hasn't happened yet. Small primes are possible but I've yet to see a small "standard" zoom for APS-C.

Anyway, for the time being I'll be working with the Leicas and the D5100. Hardly a hardship!!

Raw Photo Processor software - Fuji X100 Raw Samples





There's a raw conversion software programme for Apple-Macs called Raw Photo Processor.
Website - http://www.raw-photo-processor.com/RPP/Overview.html
Its free software, but for a donation (I gave $20) you get some added features.




I downloaded it as they already have a patch for Fuji X100 raw files. Photography Blog have some available for download at -
http://www.photographyblog.com/reviews/fujifilm_finepix_x100_review/sample_images/


I had a look at these using RPP and they are really rather good. A good deal sharper than the jpg samples circulating would have you believe. Even the shots with the lens at f/2 produce nice crisp results. Once again its a case of waiting until some raw files appear before judging a cameras performance. The high ISO files are excellent, as has been apparent for some time, and despite my reservations about its build quality, there are certainly no complaints about image quality. If you have an Apple-Mac, have a look at them via the RPP software.


HOWEVER - 
Raw Photo Processor is not Photoshop or Lightroom. Its a programme that optimises images for post-processing. Consequently images are much flatter and less saturated than the Adobe programmes would produce. This suits me as I do like as simple a conversion as possible, but others may find the files look very dull and low contrast. They do however look fine with some photoshop work and have the benefit of good shadow detail and very low CA and fringing.


I tried it out on various files including some Leica M8 files which were always very difficult to process.


weymouth-CAN-adth-0072
Leica M8 Voigtlander 15mm


weymouth-CAN-adth-0026

Leica M8 Voigtlander 15mm


Its a programme I like, though its a bit slow and needs a lot of work to get good results. I wouldn't use it if I was converting a lot of files and needed to do that fast, but its a very useful programme when there's more time available, and also for tricky files that need a lot of adjusting. 


_1010636
Panasonic GF1 45mm f/2.8 macro lens


_DSC0501
Sony a850 28-75mm lens


L1101674_CF
Leica M9 Zeiss 18mm f/4


L1101681_CF


Words - David
Images - David and Ann





The "Digital Revival of film"



In the latest edition of Digital Photographer Magazine there is a article entitled "The Digital revival of film" 


"A rise in vintage and retro trends across all industries, particularly within fashion, has seen a new emerging demand from photographic generations both young and old. What used to be avoided by camera designers is now being embraced, as 'old-fashioned' just got fashionable. The retro cameras and film style photos from the past are back, aesthetically at least." 


They cite as an example the Chanel No.5 ad at the top of the page with the cameo appearance of a Leica M8.


The article goes on to talk about, retro designs in cameras such as the Olympus Pens and Fuji X100, the resurgence of Leica and the increasingly popular editions of vintage/retro and nostalgic processing now available in cameras. 


Thus proving that those of us who go weak at the knees at the sight of some chrome and leather are not alone!!


None of this implies that those who use digital cameras are about to go back to using film, but there is some evidence that images that look like they might have shot on film are becoming more popular.


As an early adopter of digital, when I started putting those images onto picture library websites they were very much in the minority. They did look different, cleaner, less contrast etc. and proved very popular. After a few years virtually everything looked like that and I suddenly found that my film scans became my best sellers. By then I'd worked out how to make my digital shots look like they might have been taken on film. I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked "Do you still shoot film?" and I get comments all the time saying, "Thats a film look." 


So is there a difference between a "film look" and a "digital look" ?


pyrenees


Pentax *ist D 77mm f1.8 limited lens. Multi Image Panoramic Stitch


lake district


dover


Here are three versions of a recent picture I took.




Far left is the raw file "developed" in Rawker. This is the closest to what the original file would be with no processing whatsoever. The middle version is with auto processing in Photoshop ACR and with auto contrast applied in Photoshop. Its also very similar to the out of camera jpg. The version on the right is after I've done some work in Photoshop and is closest to what it looked like in reality.


I know which one I prefer.


Words - David
Images - David and Ann



The sensor or the lens? and does it matter?

Canon 550D Nikon 50mm f1.2 MF lens


In a recent poll in a photographic magazine photographers voted by a large majority that the most important element that determined the quality of their images was the lens. Its an often repeated argument, implying that there are significant differences between the optics we use on our cameras. Indeed lens prices seem to reflect this. Standard zooms, 28-75mm f3.5-5.6 on full-frame, 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 on APS-C, 14-45mm f3.5-5.6 on m4/3, if bought with a kit can cost as low as £30. Go to the top of the range standard zooms and prices rocket upwards. Examples such as the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 costs £1180, the Canon 17-55mm f2.8 costs £700. This is a substantial difference. 


In reality I've always found that the sensor is the most important element in determining the quality of the image. Just as the film was. Also from my experience, the better the sensor, the less the quality of the lens matters. This also seems to work in reverse. When I've used not so good sensors only top quality lenses have produced decent results.


When I was using a Nikon DX3, I tried it with my manual focus Nikon primes and also with a 28-200mm G f3.5-5.6 zoom. The zoom produced excellent results and though it was possible to see a difference using the primes, this difference was much less than you might imagine it to be.


nikon D3X


The sensors in both the Leica M8 and M9 also seem to produce great results no matter what lens I use. Though again I can see a difference if I look hard enough, it is very small. 


Leica M9 Zeiss 50mm f2 Planar


I even tried some non m-mount lenses on my M9 and it produced great results. Even from the Samyang!!


Leica M9 Nikon 50mm f1.2 MF


Leica M9 Samyang 14mm f2.8


On some of the cameras I have used where the sensor is not so good, I've found I need a really good lens to get acceptable results. On the Pentax K-7 I had, the results from the kit zooms were pretty soft.


Pentax K-7


Whereas the primes I used were better.


Pentax k-7 35mm f/2.8 lens


Again with the Canon DSLR's that I've used, I've always used the best lenses that I can and this has usually meant prime lenses, as I've found the zooms, with the exception of the excellent 24-105mm f/4, disappointing. I even took to using adapted Nikon primes on my Canons as I found they gave slightly better results.


canon 5DMkII 85mm f1.8 lens


Yesterday after writing about my Olympus E-P2 I tried it again with some different lenses. One of those I used was the Panasonic 14-42mm kit lens from the Panasonic GH2. When I looked at the results I thought I had done something wrong as the images were so soft. I had got some reasonable results on the GH2 with this lens at f8 & f11 and using a tripod. However the E-P2 results were pretty terrible. I took the pictures again & took some on the GH2 just to see if I had made some error, but the results were the same. 


In some previous posts I have mentioned that I have always been impressed with the Olympus 14-42mm kit zoom. However a substantial part of this opinion is formed by the fact that I have used it on Panasonic cameras! On the E-P2 for example its quite disappointing.


Olympus E-P2 14-42 Kit Lens Zoom


I will admit that much of this is me being hyper-critical and very picky. I am a confirmed "pixel-peeper" and will probably always be so. An example of this is I have recently been considering buying a Pentax K-5 and have been looking at my K-7 images again. I have always been quite disparaging about that camera. However looking at the images again I didn't think they looked that bad. At the time I was using it I had just bought a Leica M8 and was probably comparing it to that.


Another example was over Christmas I saw a print of a portrait I had made for a family member on their wall. I had taken the picture with my Olympus E-P2 and the 14-42mm kit lens. The print looked terrific. Beautifully sharp and detailed.


The differences that we see on our screens are indeed real and some lenses are better than others as indeed are sensors. I've only really had two cameras which I could say never produced a decent picture. One was a Canon 350D and the other was a Fuji S5 Pro. I've often wondered if they were faulty, or three anti-aliasing filters had been fitted by mistake! Both produced incredibly soft images. The rest of the cameras I've used, while certainly having differences, have all been useable. Maybe its the 27" iMac screen I stare at all day, that exaggerates these differences. The printed image, either self printed or in magazines or books certainly levels out the results. I see no problem in trying to get the best results that I can, and while the differences between sensor / lens combinations may be smaller than I sometimes imply, they do matter to me. However that may not be the case for everyone. Many wedding photographers use Fuji S5's and I can see that its combination of low contrast and soft images could be very useful in that context. For the majority of my own wedding photography I used Canon jpgs. These produced less noise and a softer result than shooting raw. I've done lots of portrait work in the past and razor-sharp is definitely not required here. If you are shooting portraits for clients, I doubt there are many of them that will thank you for producing high resolution ultra-defined images of all their blemishes! Seeing your headshot on a huge monitor screen can be very disconcerting for those of us who are not perfect. (i.e. everybody!)


So while I shall continue in my search for the ultimate camera / lens combination, its undertaken with an understanding that this is about the margins. This is about squeezing that extra bit of sharpness, getting 95% instead of 90%, getting that fractional improvement. My best-selling picture was taken on a Pentax K-10 with a 12-24mm zoom. Its of a bathroom! That probably puts a lot of this into perspective. Though we may fret and worry over our gear, ultimately its still the picture that counts. Now if only I could convince myself of that!


Words - David
Images - David and Ann











Sometimes I miss the M8.

leica m8 15m heliar

Sometimes I miss my Leica M8. Firstly because carrying around the M9 I'm very aware of how much money I have in my hands and the concern I have to make sure I don't drop it. Secondly because I loved the colour. The M9 is much more accurate but I always liked the way the M8 rendered certain colours. Thirdly because the crop factor extended some of my lenses. I could also use lenses like the Voigtlander 15mm without the colour cast problems.


leica-peak008


leica M8 15mm heliar 1

On a brighter note.

L1000816
All pictures - Leica M8 Voigtlander 50mm f1.1 at f1.1.


Yesterdays two major announcements provoked different emotions in me. Frustration and disappointment when Canon announced what the 60D would be like and pleasure and anticipation when Cosina revealed that they are joining m4/3 and that their first lens is going to be a 25mm f0.95.

I had a look at some images I had shot with the Voigtlander 50mm f1.1 Nokton on a Leica M8 to remind myself of what this combination was capable of. 

L1000837

To me yesterdays announcement was some of the best news I've heard on the photographic gear front in some time. I see it as a great boost for m4/3. Cosina/Voigtlander is an excellent lens manufacturer with a great sense of tradition, and of any company that I would wish to become a third party manufacturer of lenses for the system then they would be my first choice. I've used a lot of their lenses and I love their quality and appreciate their reasonable pricing. I also can't think of a better start than an ultra fast "standard" lens for the system.

Though people seem to like them, I personally have no desire whatsoever to use a rebadged surveillance lens masquerading as photographic equipment. Now there is a decent proper option and for that I'm very grateful.

With the rumoured upcoming new Panasonic sensor things look very bright for m4/3 and I can see a year down the line a good choice of AF and MF lens giving us a varied set of options. We all have our own particular preferences for what a lens range would include, and speaking personally a 25mm f0.95 was right at the top of my list. I had begun to believe it was going to remain a fantasy and I was delighted to wake up yesterday morning and discover that the mysterious m4/3 announcement was this lens.




nokton 50mm f/1.1



One of the nice things about a lens like this is that there is a depth of field advantage. A "standard lens" field of view on full frame requires a 50mm lens. On m4/3 its a 25mm lens. Since a 25mm lens has more DOF at any aperture than a 50mm lens, focusing is a little easier and more forgiving. Though at f0.95 there's not a lot in it.

I'm looking forward to the lens arriving here in the UK and unless preliminary reports suggest its a bad lens, which knowing Voigtlander I would be very doubtful of, I'm looking forward to buying and using one.


nokton 50mm f/1.1




Words - D
Images - D & A

Open letter to Leica




Its quite the fashion these days to write an open letter to Leica. Telling them what they should do with their next camera. They must be "flattered" by all the attention!
Michael Reichmann at Luminous Landscape has done it:-
Thom Hogan ("one of the most respected technical writers in the industry, and the leading independant authority on Nikon cameras" - hang on I thought that was Ken Rockwell!) has done it as well.

Not wishing to be left out I decided to write my own. So here it is.

OPEN LETTER TO LEICA.

Firstly it seems to be the case that I should state my photojournalist credentials. In order to tell Leica what to do, you have to have used one for ever, traveling the world with your Leica film camera. Well I'm afraid I miss out there. I bought my first Leica (an M8) last June. I'm not a photojournalist and I haven't put a film though a camera since 2001.
It seems also that I have to do this in an open letter, rather than just writing to you in person. I'm not quite sure why this is, but I'm sure its got nothing to do with attracting people to your website, so that they can spend money on all the publications & guides that you sell. Oh and those little ads that you can click on. Isn't it nice that these people give us the opportunity to do that?

But to the point. I picked up one of your cameras for the first time last year. I had to cope with the lack of a proper grip (scandalous!) your antiquated frames system (how so not now!) and your rangefinder system for manual focus lens, of all things.(what were you thinking of!)
I searched in vain for the copious menus, letting me tell the camera to go and pick up my dry cleaning before taking some award winning street photography on the way home. Having used monster DSLR's for so long I'm lost without an incomprehensible set of menus and 100 custom functions that I forgot were there. And its so small! How on earth am I going to impress anybody with that? It looks like something I found in the attic.

As if the M8 wasn't bad enough, I then sold it and bought the M9. Surely I thought, this time you will include all the proper modern technology, that we all need so badly to take decent pictures, and hopefully an MP3 player. But no, you carried on with the same old nonsense that you've apparently been making for years.

I can now see why all of these renowned and respected gods of photographic journalism are telling you to clean up your act and quick!! You probably won't take any notice of me, I'm just a humble photographer, working every day and earning a living. I don't have the time to be writing books, running courses. I know I should be doing that, so that I can be taken seriously, but I'm just so busy. I promise in the future that I'll stop taking pictures and spend more time measuring the acutance level of various lenses, and photographing test charts. I will also try to take a few pictures of something artistic to back up my writing.

So you really do need to change everything. That ludicrous body shape, that dated and hopeless focusing system, in fact the whole way you make the camera. Its time to get with the 21st century. Just like the experts say.

I do have a problem however. I've tried so hard to get on board with the movers and shakers on this. But I must be doing something wrong. I find I can focus really quickly using your rangefinder system, I find your camera the most comfortable I've ever used, I love the simplicity of the layout and lack of confusion in the menus, I think the design is beautiful and I'm absolutely blown away by the quality of the images it produces. I realise that I'm obviously not on the same page as my peers and betters, but I will try harder to find fault with your camera, as its obvious that its me thats not up to speed here.

I just wish I could get rid of this little voice in my ear that keeps saying -
"DON'T CHANGE A THING!!!"


As ever this is a personal commentary and in this case IS intended to influence or criticise others personal preferences.


"This is a blog, not a novel"
- Philip Bloom

D