I've been waiting since the beginning of the year for Apple to release a new Macbook Pro. What a huge difference, compared to my 3 year old MBP. The retina display makes photo editing so much better, and I had no idea how handicapped I was. Another reason to upgrade was the new Lightroom 5. LR4 was already running sluggish on the old MBP that I didn't dare to upgrade. But man, now everything is just so fast that it feels like this is how it was meant to be. I haven't had time to try out some of the new features, but I'm very happy with my old process on the new hardware and software.
New Hood for the 28mm Summicron...
Notice any thing different? No? That's because my 28'Cron just got a reasonably sized hood, instead of the monstrous thing that it came with. I've really enjoyed shooting with the 28'Cron, but the size of its hood have always bothered me. It makes the lens feels very clunky and fits awkwardly in the bag. Leica did came out with a rounded and vented hood for it, but it costs somewhere north of $500. Yeah, you heard me right.
So I've been searching for a reasonable alternative. I've tried a cheap 46mm screw-on round vented hood, but since I can't put the UV filter on the hood, the hood had to go on the filter, making the lens seemed extra long and not very secure. Then I read that some people have been using the 12589 hood, formerly came with the 35mm Summilux ASPH pre-FLE, and decided to try it out.
The camera definitely looked better with it on and it locked on to the lens quite securely. The images above shows the finder blockage and it smaller size. I took it for a spin in the backyard to make sure it didn't affect the images with extra vignette. I can't really tell if it's better at blocking stray lights and preventing flare, but so far I think it's a worthy upgrade.
Some things are just irresistible... I've tried really hard to resist this little guy from eBay, but I finally broke down and bought one. It's super small, probably about a little over 2 inches in height, yet has all of the elements that makes it look authentic. You have to pop open the focus screen on the top in order to see LCD screen for framing and shooting, and you have to turn the crank to arm the shutter after each shot. Of course, the 2-megapixel images that it captures isn't worth much praise, but the fun is all in the act of shooting this vintage-looking little toy. Below is a shot of it next to a AA-size battery and a couple of first shots I got from this camera:
The latest 35mm Summilux has been on my wanted list for so long that sometimes I feel it's just a wish that will never come true. It doesn't help that during the lens shortage of the 2011 and 2012, people were selling them at $2000 above retail. However, lately we finally started to see some transactions in the normal range and even below retail. I simply could not hold myself back any longer when I came across a deal for a never-used copy at well below retail price. So here we are... I'm now a proud owner of this fabulous lens.
Upon receipt of the lens and testing it, I quickly noticed a problem. When focusing at near distance between 0.7 and 0.8 meter, the rangefinder patch stopped moving as I turn the focus ring. Since I've never experience this with any other lens, my first thought was "Oh man... I got a lemon!" However, since I bought it from a reputable seller, I wanted to make sure the problem isn't with my camera. Since a new Leica store has recently opened in Los Angeles, I decided to take my lens and camera in to test it with their bodies and lenses. The lens worked perfectly on their demo cameras! The manager explained that perhaps my camera is just barely out of the tolerance and I should send it in for a CLA. I guess that's the price of owning a mechanical precision equipment. The shots above were taken at the Leica store.
Afterwards, we headed to The Grove for lunch and gave me a chance to take some first shots with the lens. Since the problem only happens at the nearest focus distance, I was still able to use it without problems. It wasn't after getting home and loading the files in Lightroom did I realize how incredible the images were. The sharpness, the colors, the contrast... all perfect! As part of my workflow, I usually like to click on the "Auto" adjustment and see whether it improves the image, and with this lens, I almost always prefer the image straight out of the camera, that is just amazing. I get the same feeling that I get when I shoot with the 50'Lux... "Magic!"
Here are some more shots from today... and in case you're wondering, the f-stop number is wrong because I added a 0.6 (2-stop) ND filter.
A new toy :)
Well, so I've been shooting with the 90mm Elmarit-M for a while now, and I really like this focal length. The copy I have has a slight front-focus which can cause some troubles wide-open and at minimum focus distance (MFD). That's why I usually shoot with f/4 with it, in which case the front-focus problem goes away. In doing so, I've found that f/4 is quite enough for a 90mm lens to get the bokehs I wanted, with speed being the only compromise.
So... I've been looking around other options and was attracted to this 90mm Macro-Elmar-M. It's been touted as being a worthy competitor to the 90mm APO Summicron in terms of image quality. But I think the most desired feature of this lens is that it is collapsible, which means the lens can retract into a smaller size when not being used. Lens performance and compacted size comes with a premium in the Leica world, I think, and when collapsed, it feels smaller than the 50'Lux, making it easy to carry around and saves space in the bag. The hood can be attached up-side-down to get out of the way and protect the lens body. I feel a lot of thoughts have gone into the design of this lens and will make it a great travel companion.
One obvious advantage with this lens + goggle combo is that it will allow one to shoot some macro photography. I gave it a try today. With the goggle attached, the lens is mounted with a 180-degree turn, with the lens release on the right instead of left, which revealed the DOF markings for the macro mode. I didn't even notice them before... how smart! Once in macro mode, I could focus as close as 0.5 meters. It also comes with an angle finder which allowed me to look through the viewfinder from the top. It's very useful if you're shooting macro shots of a flower on the ground. In fact, I think it can be very useful in general because it will allow me to shoot with a different perspective, and it's small enough to just throw in the bag without a second thought. It was fun while it lasted, but since you can't go between macro to normal without detaching the goggle, I'm afraid it will probably stay in the leather pouch most of the time. However, it's nice to know the option is there. I will share more as I have more time to play with it.
Here are some more shots in the afternoon, without the macro adapter goggle. It is nice and sharp, with perfect color rendition.
A Perfect Portrait Lens...
In trying to get to know the 90mm Elmarit-M lens, I've had it mounted on the M9 for the past couple of weeks. I find that to be the best way for me to get acquainted to a new lens... just shoot with it non-stop for a month or so, then you'll know all its virtues and faults.
It doesn't have the biting sharpness unless you stop it down to f/8 or so, however, it is wonderful for portraits at wider apertures. My copy of the lens has a slight front-focus at f/2.8 and 1 meter away, but once I stop down to f/4, it is negligible.
I have not had any chance to go out to shoot at all, so I've been confined to just use my backyard the best I can, and in the house when the light is good. What I've discovered is that this lens is amazing for taking portraits. While I wouldn't hesitate to use it to shoot some flowers or landscape, I find it is simply amazing for portraiture photography.
Being a tele-photo lens, it is capable of producing pleasing bokeh to separate the background from the subject. Also, it's softer rendering at wide aperture is flattering for human subjects. I had previously loved to use my 50mm Summilux ASPH for taking portraits, and sometimes I do have to work a bit harder to get the beautiful out-of-focus background, but with the 90mm Elmarit-M, it is so easy. Here are a few more portraits of my son, and a shot of our pine tree to show its sharpness and nice color rendering:
After I've decided that I liked the 28mm focal length on the wide end, I figured that I should get a 90mm lens to round off my kit. I wasn't sure which lens to get, so I've been looking at a lot of images in several photography forums and found that I see a lot of nice images from the 90mm Elmarit-M.
Well, just bought an used one from a forum member and it arrived about a week ago. So, I've been shooting with it exclusively and found it to be excellent. With its maximum aperture at f/2.8, you really need to make sure you have good lights indoor or at night, but I already knew that from shooting with the 28mm Elmarit-M ASPH. However, during the day, this lens really is amazing.
I have not shot with anything longer than 50mm before, and I must say, 90mm could become my second favorite focal length (I still love 50mm the best). The combined reach and the ease of separating the subject from the background, I can see why many prefer this focal length for portraits. I found framing and composing with the 90mm frameline to be very natural and my 1.4X magnifier makes focusing a breeze.
Well, here are just some of the shots from the past week, and so far I'm really enjoying the way this lens renders.
Time to show off some accessories I've accumulated for the M9 for the past 6 months... I've tried many, and the ones I like stayed on the camera.
Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH
Just about 3 months ago, I posted the unboxing video of this lens that I've bought used from an internet forum. I was so excited, because of the endless praises it had received, with some even touted it to be the "best 50mm lens ever made". Now that I've had ample time to use it almost everyday, I feel that I can finally make a judgement and share some of my thoughts on this lens.
There's an old saying: "Good, fast, or cheap -- pick any two." While it may hold true for most things, I believe the 50'Lux could well be the exception to that rule. Although it isn't exactly cheap, it is certainly affordable, or obtainable, if you really think you want it and willing to save for it. With a max aperture of f/1.4, it definitely fulfills the name that it was given ("summi" = maximum, "lux" = light), and it's only bested by the Noctilux ("nocti" = night) in the Leica line of 50mm lenses. Just how good is it?
Luckily for me, and not so much for my wallet, at the same time of acquiring the 25mm Zeiss Biogon, I also found a pristine copy of the Leica 28mm Elmarit ASPH. Since I've been wanting to try shooting with some wide angle lenses, there's no better way to start than with these two fine lenses! The Elmarit arrived on my birth date, just in time for a weekend trip in Vegas, see gallery [HERE].
Of course, I don't think I will be keeping both as their focal length are too close and both have f/2.8 aperture. However, I plan to take my time and not make a hasty decision. I was originally tempted to do one of those "shoot out" type test where I would shoot the same subjects with both lenses and compare which one produces the image that I prefer. I may still do that, but I feel it's too analytical and takes away the "enjoyment". Instead, since I have them in hand, I want to really get to know each lens so the decision won't be based on images alone, but also on ergonomics, how they feel in actual use, and just my overall impression after using them for a few months. So, this battle will be one of many to come... as I will bringing both lenses with me, giving both ample time of usage, and let the results speak for themselves. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it :)
My Journey into Leica...
A path not to be taken lightly, not without reservations, and not without dedication, but the results can be sweet, OH SO SWEET! This is a documentation of my trials and tribulations into the world of Leica Rangefinder Photography, and I hope you'll enjoy coming along with me.