Category Archives: Leica

Thoughts on Fuji, Leica & How The Camera I Want Doesn’t Exist

Fuji and Leica seem to be going at each other.  Leica’s newest camera has an X in its name while a newly announced Fuji has an M. I don’t think this is an accident or coincidence.

I don’t understand some of what Fuji was thinking with their new X-M1 camera. It’s sort of a junior X-Pro1 and has the same APS-C sensor as that roughly one-year old camera, as opposed to the newer sensor in the X100s that everyone is raving about. This makes no sense (sorry) to me. Why not put that newer sensor into it?

(If you haven’t already read this in 100 places already, Fuji announced the X-M1, an interchangeable lens camera with an APS-C sensor retailing for $699 body only or $799 with a kit zoom lens.)

I’ve hit this frustration point because what I want in a second camera should be simple enough and yet as near as I can tell, it doesn’t exist.

Sadly (or stupidly) it took my going through three different mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (Fuji X-Pro1, Sony NEX-7, Olympus O-MD) before I finally realized that for all the strengths of these different cameras, I didn’t want a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.  For one thing, once you put any sort of a decent zoom lens on them, they became so bulky that there was no advantage to taking them every day as opposed to my Nikon D800.  More importantly, I realized that I could neither afford nor desired to spend hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars buying multiple lenses for these systems when I already have a fair investment in Nikon glass.  (And no, before you ask, I have zero intention of getting a Nikon 1.)

Of all of these various cameras, the ones I enjoyed shooting with the most were the Fuji X100 (but I felt stymied by having just that single focal length lens) and the X-Pro1 (didn’t want to invest in Fuji glass).  What I loved about them was the control layout – instant and easy access to aperture and shutter speed without fiddling through menus.  Today I’ve got a Sony RX100 which certainly takes a nice picture but I find the control system too fiddly and I don’t like having only that 3 inch LCD screen for framing; I like a viewfinder.

I suppose that the latest Leica, that X Vario, would be perfect for me but whether or not you want to quibble over the zoom lens being relatively dark, the $3,000 price tag puts it out of my reach.

So what do I want? It’s actually simple – I want a Fuji X100s with a fixed halfway decent zoom lens. I loved the controls on the X100 and I LOVED the hybrid viewfinder.  I want a fixed zoom lens, which lets out the Nikon Coolpix A. I want a large sensor, which lets out the Canon G series.  And I want it to cost under $1,000, which lets out the Leica.

If Fuji ever releases an X100s with a zoom, I will be there.


If This is the New Leica Mini M, Who Would Buy This?

Leica has been teasing the launch of a new Leica Mini M later this month.  Now details and pictures are showing up on the web in advance of the launch, purporting to be the details of the new camera.  (I snagged this photo from Engadget.)


Is it real or is it Photoshop?  I can’t say.  But if it is real, all I can ask is, “what the hell were they thinking?”

I mean, plenty of people who don’t have a Leica M series camera would love to have one – me included – but they’re just financially out of reach for many of us.  So a smaller – and presumably cheaper version would have great appeal.

But first off, rather than Leica’s interchangeable lenses, this one has a fixed lens – and a dark one to boot. 28-70mm and F/3.5 – F/6.4.   Inside will be a 16 megapixel APS-C size sensor, which does make sense.

Here’s the kicker – the price, rumored to be 2,450 Euros, approximately US$3,150.  Three thousand smackers for a lens that will spend most of its time at F/6.4?  Who the hell will buy this, aside from Chinese billionaires who buy Leicas by the truckload just to impress their friends?  Yes, it’s much cheaper than a Leica M – but apparently it will have little in common with that camera besides the red dot.

Anyway – there’s one thing about this photo that suggests it could be a fake and that’s the focal lengths listed on the lens.  No one puts the full frame equivalent on the lens – they put the real numbers and leave you to work out the details on your own.  I don’t think even Leica would put out a camera with a fixed lens that has a full frame equivalent of 42 to 100mm.  It makes no sense.

Oh, by the way, someone has already reviewed it, even though no one knows for sure what it is. “So if you want a small light, extremely high quality, unobtrusive camera, look no further.”

Another web site asks, “Is this going to be the Mirrorless Leica System That Was Promised?”  Am I missing something here?  Is the Leica M a DSLR? Does it have a flip-up mirror inside?

In another 10 days, all questions will be answered.



New Leica M Series Cameras Announced

It’s Photokina week and everyone and their uncle is announcing new camera gear.  I’ll do a few posts on announcements that have caught my eye, starting with some of the new stuff from Leica.

There is no M10 announcement.  Instead the M-9 successor is just called the Leica M, and the brainiacs at Leica have decreed that, much like the iPad, they will now confuse everyone by calling all successive cameras in this series M.  “In future, Leica M and S model names will omit the number suffix to emphasise the long-term significance and enduring value of the respective systems.”  As if the price tag alone wasn’t enough to tell you that.

Anyway, the M (Type 240) is a 24 megapixel full frame sensor camera that will sell for US$7,000, body only, available in black or black & silver.

Some other details:

The rear LCD is now a modern 3 inch 920k pixel screen with Gorilla glass and LiveView with focus peaking and 10X magnification.

There is 1080p video.

There is a new adapter allowing use of Leica R lenses.

SD card slot.

Weather sealed.

Sweet.  Available early next year.

The Leica M-E is an “entry level” Leica digital rangefinder priced at US$5,500.

“Featuring a proven” 18 megapixel full frame sensor.  I think this means it’s the same sensor as the M9.

It also has the same shitty 2.5 inch 230k dot LCD screen as the M9.

“Concentrating on the essential photographic functions and renowned dependability for all typical ‘M’ fields of use, the Leica M-E makes an ideal entry-level model for photographers wishing to experience the fascination of M-Photography in its purest form.”  Meaning no video.

There is no Anti-Aliasing/Low Pass filter.  (No mention of this for the Leica M.)

Available later this month.


Leica Monochrom & Fuji X-Pro1 & How Insane I Am

While my shopping addiction and camera insanity knows few limits, I have somewhat accepted the fact that the Leica M-9 (and its future successors) will be forever beyond my budget, short of winning the lottery or having some rich relative I never heard of die and leave me all their money.  Nevertheless, the announcement earlier this month of new Leica cameras of course caught my attention, in particular the new black and white only Leica Monochrom.

The Monochrom is essentially a special version of the M-9.  Presumably because it’s being produced in smaller numbers than the M-9, it also costs $1,000 more.  That’s right, the body alone costs $8,000.  There but for the grace of Buddha go I.  Yes, I don’t do a lot of street photography.  I want to do more.  And I love black & white photography, just as I love black and white films (especially when properly transferred to Blu-Ray by companies such as Criterion).  But none of this justifies selling my car in order to be able to afford this camera plus a Leica lens.

Because it’s black and white only, it means it doesn’t need a filter array to collect color information when shooting.  Without that array, what you’re left with is apparently outstanding sharpness not to mention unmatched high ISO performance.  Just how good is it?  Hit these links to see some sample photos.

Shoot Tokyo – these are my favorites

Eric Kim – link in this post to a some outstanding photos done by a Magnum photographer in Russia

Eric Kim again

Photography Blog – here and here 

Steve Huff  – here and here

Leica makes some odd choices though, don’t they?  Stunning lenses, stunning sensor – and then they equip their cameras with the cheapest LCD screen possible.  A friend of mine who is blessed with a Leica M-9 says he doesn’t care, he doesn’t use the LCD screen for shooting.  I suppose that might be true but to me, that’s not the point.  The point is, you charge $8,000 for a camera, everything there should be top of the line.  It makes no sense to charge this sort of money and then slap on an LCD screen that’s inferior in just about every possible way to the screen you get on the back of a $200 Casio.

Doesn’t matter.  I cannot afford a Leica camera body and I also cannot afford Leica lenses.  (Not unless more of you readers start clicking on some of the ads and links here and start actually buying stuff!)(Oh, here’s the link to buy the Leica Monochrom from B&H Photo.)

That being said, I do possess a pretty darned good camera for street photography, the Fuji X100.  The only limitation is that it is a single, fixed focal length lens – 23mm (35mm equivalent is, er, 35mm).  And so because of that, I also have the Sony NEX-7, which of course has interchangeable lenses.

What happened last week was I took a weekend trip, only wanted to carry one camera and one lens, and so I took the Sony rather than the Fuji, and I took the Sony 18-55mm lens, which is not a good lens at all on the NEX-7 but is the only zoom lens I have for this camera.  I didn’t have too much opportunity for shooting during the weekend but I did manage a couple of nice shots here and there.

(Taken at the Greenbelt Mall in Makati, Manila, they were setting up the outdoor area for an event that night.  These guys, a local band that specializes in Brazilian Batucada music, were posing for pictures taken by a friend and I ran over, waved, and got a few shots of them.  They asked me if I wanted to be their manager.)

Actually, looking at the above picture in Lightroom, I’m pretty unhappy with it.  It’s not tack sharp anywhere (cheap Sony lens) and there’s a surprising amount of noise consider it was shot at ISO 200.

It got me thinking, might I be better off with the Fuji X-Pro1?  I mean, if I sold off the X100 and the NEX-7 (and the three lenses I have for it), that would almost give me enough money to buy the X-Pro1 and the three lenses that are available for it so far.  I know that the X-Pro1 has not received universally good reviews – mostly on its handling quirks and not its performance, and since I find the X100 a joy to use, I suspect I’d have a similar experience here.

(Hey! You!  You can click here to buy the Fuji X-Pro1 from B&H Photo. Or you can click here to buy it from Amazon.)

There is no zoom lens available for this Fuji yet, just three fixed focal length lenses – 18mm, 35mm and a 60mm macro.

What there is though is a new adapter from Fuji to put Leica lenses on the X-Pro1.  This adapter includes electronic contacts for passing info about the lens back to the camera.  Pretty sweet and at $200, not too expensive.  Which brings me back to the “I cannot afford Leica lenses” bit.  And also the fact that, so far at least, Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop cannot handle X-Pro1 RAW files, though I expect that will change in the relatively near future.

So relative sanity prevails, at least for now.

Here’s a shot of those batucada guys rehearsing.

They actually sounded pretty good.  Maybe I should have taken them up on their offer to manage them.