Photo Of The Day: Snow!

Good morning you awesome war-torn camera geeks! Well what a monster storm we had up here in the northeast and elsewhere right?

I think it was the best snow in years as far as snow goes. It’s the kind of snow that one can easily make snowmen with. Haven’t had that in a few years!

The photo was taken with an iPhone X and processed in camera.

I wouldn’t say it is a “high quality” picture or anything but I wanted to ask: Has the phone quality gotten good enough where you choose it over your better gear?

In my case, it is simply because I didn’t want to risk damaging my “real” cameras since I knew I was going to be outside for a while but I do admit I shoot my phone quite often these days because of the simplicity and ease of sharing the pics.

Sure I can see the blown out whites in the snow but I’m sure 90 percent of the general public out there would not notice or even care about that. It’s only us camera geeks that care! 😀

Someone asked me what the lens was on my old Sony A7r original. It’s the Contax 50mm f/1.4 N lens. The lens lives on!

This is the same lens I used on my now sold Contax N Digital, yes the one with the dead sensor. Someone actually wanted it!

This is a Kipon adapter that’s supposed to control the aperture of the lens electronically through communication with the camera. It is not an autofocus adapter.

The problem with it is that it doesn’t work! I’m forced to always use the lens wide open which is disappointing but ok because I almost always use the lens wide open indoors but outdoors this will be problematic because the lens can flare or cause over exposure in bright light.

It cost me $40 from a respected dealer and there was no mention that it wasn’t working. I suspect they didn’t have an N lens to test.

Anyway as these adapters cost $260 brand new I’ll keep it. I just can’t and won’t dish out $500 for an AF adapter as nice as the N lenses are.

That’s it for today, have a great one good peeps! 😎😍😎👍🏻

Sunday Stories: The “Stolen” OM-D and Three Flashback Sunday Pictures

Good morning you war torn camera geeks! Today I present to you a series I call “Sunday Stories.” It is exclusively a YouTube series on the Camera Legend channel. Today’s story is about the “stolen” Olympus OM-D E-M1 at the 2013 PhotoPlus show in NYC. It was a story that could have turned out pretty bad but…well, if you’re interested, please check it out here:

Flashback Sunday Pics

(Above) Someone had recently asked me for a straight out of camera jpeg from the Leica M8 and here’s one from 2015. Shot with the M8 and 35mm f/1.2 Voigtlander Nokton. Hope this helps!

(Above) A photo taken by real world Camera Legend and friend Frank B. aka “Boscodamus” at the PhotoPlus Expo show in 2010. He took the photo using my M8 and his 50mm f/1.0 Leica Noctilux. I’m amazed that he nailed the shot! I mean, he’s an experienced Leica M film camera user but the fact that the shot is so sharp at f/1.0, man, Frank I’m impressed! And the happy expressions? Wow! Then again, I’ve always been impressed with Frank’s work, he’s a master!

Frank says his website is offline right now but he’s free to leave a link here should it open up again. Thanks Frank and my regards to Mrs. B! 🙂

(Above) Has the Covid restrictions worn you out? Hopefully not much longer! 🙂

The last Sunday Leica M8 flashback was shot in 2017 with the M8 and 50mm f/1.5 Nokton (Voigtlander Prominent) lens via adapter. Note the funky bokeh in the background. This is also a straight out of camera jpeg and the colors look better than the first image I think.

That’s it for January folks, see you next month!

Book & Site Recommendations

Good morning war-torn geeks and camera freaks! Just like you, there are many great photography sites I visit though admittedly not as much these days due to just being busy with life. However, when there is free time I enjoy these sites and I’d like to recommend them to you guys in case you didn’t know.

Mike Eckman Dot Com: Mike Eckman’s site is a treasure trove for classic film camera lovers. His reviews are detailed, concise, and includes wonderful samples taken with various cameras. I review Camera Legends but Mike has me beat with ALL cameras! Check out his wonderful reviews:

Victor Bezrukov: Victor is a brilliant photographer based in Israel. When I first visited his site, I saw a description on “the light and shadow warrior.” When you see something like that, the photographer usually doesn’t live up to the description but this man does! His images, especially his b&w images are compelling and Victor really has an eye for composition. I really enjoy his photography and I bet you will too! Check him out:

https://www.victorbezrukov.com

Jim Grey: Jim Grey’s “Down The Road” has been a favorite for many years. In addition to his many great camera reviews, Jim has a wonderful way of blending photos and words into stories and experiences that anyone can understand and relate to. Being close in age as well as being a fellow camera nut, I can relate to his work on many levels. Jim has also been very kind and supportive of the Camera Legend website and I am very thankful for that! Check out Jim’s wonderful blog here:

https://blog.jimgrey.net

And speaking of Jim Grey, I got his book recently and I would like to give it my highest recommendation! Without giving it all away, if you’re familiar with Jim’s work, this book is all you love and more! Well written with wonderful photos, plus some very deeply personal life experiences that you might relate to and might leave you appreciating your own circumstances. You may get the book here or through Jim’s pages:

By the way, I’m old school, I got the paperback copy! I’m about half way through the book and I can say it’s classic Jim Grey!Wonderful photography and deeply personal stories.

If you’re a modern day reader you may also get it in eBook form. I might do that for all future books as I’ve become more environmentally aware over the past few years 🙂

Fuji Sale On Amazon

I haven’t done a book recommendation in years simply because I haven’t bought a book in years but this one is well worth it. As I said about many a good camera, I will say about this book: Get it!

This is just the first of many. There are many other photographers and sites I’d love to recommend and I will so keep looking out for it!

Have a great day camera geeks!

Pandemic Shooting 2020

Good morning war torn Camera Geeks! A late start for the blog this year as I have been continuing to put my efforts into our YouTube channel but the blog is never forgotten! So this week I will spend more time here.

In our first post of 2021, I’d like to take a look at some photos taken last year during the 2020 Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic. Some people might also call this “quarantine” or “lockdown” shooting but I think “pandemic” shooting is more accurate in my case, as quarantine shooting would mean I had to be in quarantine for the virus which I fortunately was not. And a lockdown would mean I never left the house which I did many times.

Looking back on 2020, I have to say it was perhaps my least productive year photographically. Because of the restrictions in NYC due to the pandemic and because of a new work schedule, I was rarely ever in Manhattan in 2020. And it was perhaps for the better, not only because of the virus, but because of the empty streets.

New York City is known for its vibrant and bustling streets full of life and flavor, but last year, especially during the first lockdown in March and April, the streets were eerily empty. It was surreal to see places like Times Square empty.

Take heart however that I have been downtown recently and life appears to be coming back to the Big Apple. Even though we are now on the second and perhaps even more deadly wave of the virus, there were a lot of people in various areas of the city during the 2020 Holiday season.

“Calm Before The Storm” with the Funky Bunch in New York City in late December 2019.

Perhaps it’s virus fatigue or just crazy tourists or a combination of both, people appear more willing to venture out.

Say what you will about New Yorkers but one thing I can say is, based on my observations, New Yorkers take Covid-19 very seriously. They, for the most part, adhere to social distancing guidelines and wearing masks.

This is perhaps due to New York being hit very hard by the virus at the beginning of the pandemic in the USA. New York was at one time the epicenter of coronavirus in the U.S., a sad and scary place that California is unfortunately in right now.

I spent a lot of my free time in 2020 going up to the woods in upstate New York.

CAMERA GEAR 2020

While 2020 might have been a bust for me photographically, it was actually a boon for me camera wise! Working long hours during the coronavirus pandemic as a healthcare worker gave me sufficient funds to pick up some stuff that I had been waiting a long time to get.

Now I want to make it clear that a pandemic was not an excuse for me to buy new gear. In fact, in the beginning, it had the opposite effect. Thinking about life and death made me not want to waste money on material things.

However, as time went on, working closely with coronavirus patients and surprisingly (and luckily) not catching the bug gave me the confidence to put in even more time at work. To be fair, let’s say it was not just luck because I did pay attention to all of my coronavirus precautions.

Eventually, it got to a point where I said, you know what you only live once! I was bored at home because of the lockdowns and store closures so without breaking the bank, I picked up some new used gear. Boredom can be a dangerous thing!

So here are my two most used cameras in 2020…

MAMIYA 7 & 80mm f/4 LENS

I’ve had the Mamiya 7 since 2014. I have never given it a proper review. Why? I’m not the guy who rushes out with a review of every camera I have although if there was ever a camera to review it would be the Mamiya 7! At the same time, the Mamiya 7 is almost universally known as a great camera system. What am I going to add to that?

I’ve been using the Mamiya 7 with the 50mm f/4.5 during most of my time with it. The 50mm is not the lens most people start with in this system and that wasn’t my plan either, but as usual I only got it first because I got it very cheap, like $250 in 2014! It should be stated that even then, that was quite a bit under its worth.

A view of the George Washington Bridge from the New Jersey side with my Mamiya 7 and 80mm f/4 in hand.

Fast forward to 2020 and I finally got the lens I wanted for it, which is the 80mm f/4 which is considered the standard lens for the Mamiya 7. I waited so long because I was quite happy with the 50mm and because the 80mm was always more expensive than I wanted to spend on it.

Not that I wouldn’t have bought one if I had the money, but being busy with other camera systems kept it in the back of my mind. In 2020, I was able to get one for around $400. Not exactly cheap for a standard lens, but it is a cheap price for the Mamiya 7 system!

I’ve been impressed with its performance so far. It is sharp and contrasty, just as I expected. I don’t anticipate getting another lens for the Mamiya 7 for a long time unless I find the 150mm or the 43mm at a very good price.

“Snow 2020” Mamiya 7, 80mm f/4 L lens, Ilford HP5 Plus developed in Ilfosol 3. The first and last snowstorm of 2020 in December. This was basically a quick snapshot but check the crop below to see the amazing quality of the Mamiya 7 80mm f/4 lens. This image was shot wide open.
It’s not often that I get this kind of clarity when blowing up 35mm negatives so the 6×7 negative of the Mamiya 7 really offers enlargement potential. In fact, I believe it is only limited by the film itself.

Olympus Pen F Digital

The Olympus Pen F Digital was the last camera I saw myself getting in 2020. While I’ve always liked its looks and while I’ve read positive comments about the camera, I myself have always seen it as somewhat of a glorified Pen Digital camera.

Having used the digital Pen cameras since 2009 with the original E-P1, I worked my way to other models like the E-M5 and E-M1. One great thing about the Pen series is the “art” filters Olympus provides. Their “grainy film” filter has been highly praised and I was quite happy with it.

Yet, I kept reading over and over again about the “Mono 2” setting on the Pen F. To make a long story short, I will say that my observation is…yes, it is an amazing Monochrome simulation! It definitely is more “film-like” than what I have seen from my E-M5 or E-M1 and it is not easy to emulate the same thing in-camera with other cameras. I’ve even tried the b&w simulation in Fuji cameras and in my opinion, the Pen F beats the Fuji hands down, at least when it comes to in-camera processing.

“Social Distancing” 2020. Olympus Pen-F Digital, LUMIX 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical G lens.

To my eyes, the Pen F provides a really nice mix of sharpness, grain, grit, and softness (yes, softness!) that makes the images in Mono 2 mode more film-like to my eyes. This is apparent even with a very sharp lens like my Lumix 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical lens.

“Animal Barn” 2020. Olympus Pen-F, Mono 2 mode, 20mm f/1.7 LUMIX G lens. Note the wonderful range of tones.
“Summer Of 2020” Olympus Pen-F Digital, Mono 2 mode, 20mm f/1.7 LUMIX lens. The year 2020 will be remembered as the year the world stood still.

Back in 2006 I either used film or a camera like the original Ricoh GR Digital to get black and white files like this. Today, we are lucky to have cameras like the Pen-F Digital that can emulate monochrome images the way I like them!

LATEST YOUTUBE VIDEO

In case you’re interested here’s my latest YouTube video. The topic is why I believe you need to buy the Leica M4-P right NOW if you’re looking for one. As I said in the video, if you’ve ever wondered how I got the Contax T2 for $300 or another camera for $200 when it’s worth $1000 now, it’s all about timing and the time is now to buy the M4-P! This is not the time to be cheap! Have a great day camera geeks! 😎😍📸👍🏻

Leica M4-P Sale At Amazon!<!–>>

The Leica M8 Review: Is The M8 Worth It In 2020/2021?

Good day you war torn camera geeks! There have been few digital cameras that I return to again and again. The Leica M8 is one of the few that I still enjoy using. Today I would like to give you the pros and cons of this camera.

INTRODUCTION

The Leica M8 was introduced in 2006 by Leica Camera AG of Germany. It is their first digital rangefinder model but not the world’s first digital rangefinder. The world’s first digital rangefinder is the Epson R-D1 introduced in 2004.

The M8 features a 10.3 megapixel sensor made by Kodak. The sensor is the model KAF-10500. The sensor is an APS-H sensor with a crop factor of 1.3x.

The M8 has a shutter speed of 1/8 to 1/8000 and has aperture priority and manual mode. The M8 was updated in 2008 with a newer model called the M8.2 which apparently has an improved and quieter shutter as well as more accurate frame lines and a sapphire lcd cover which is reportedly more scratch resistant. The M8.2 has a reduced top shutter of 1/4000.

YOUTUBE VIDEO

For those of you who enjoy a more “dynamic” experience, here’s our accompanying YouTube video on the M8:

HOW I CAME ACROSS AN M8

As I’ve mentioned many times here, I was and to some degree still am a frequent reader of photography form threads (though not as much these days) but I’m more of a lurker than a contributor. I’ve learned a lot on these forums over the years going all the way back to the mid 1990s!

Part of the reason I don’t get involved in the threads is that there are so many knowledgeable posters there, what I am going to say to them? 🙂

I read, I digest, I research for myself if I’m especially interested in something and I find out for myself what the truth is.

And so ten years ago in 2010 my interest in the M8 was very high. The digital cameras from the year 2007 and up were really taking things up several notches. My main digital SLR at the time was the Nikon D3 which I loved but I kept reading all these great things about the M8.

Now the M9 had been introduced in the fall of 2009 but as is usually the case I almost never buy anything new and especially that pricey, so the M8 was really my only option for a digital Leica M. Never mind that I already had the Epson R-D1 since 2006! It was G.A.S. creeping in again 🙂

“Dream Time” February 2010. Leica M8, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M. My first picture with the Leica M8! It was certainly “Dream Time” for me in 2010 when the Leica M8 arrived in the house! 🙂

So I found what was a good deal at the time, a near new M8 for $2000 USD. I found it in an ad in one of the forums. I happened to have the money but as always I had to bite hard when anything is over $500! But I did bite and soon I was in possession of a beautiful silver/chrome M8.

Now it wasn’t really that I wanted the M8 in silver, though it looks very beautiful in this finish. I’d probably have done better with a black model which would be more stealthy for street photography. The choice of color didn’t have anything to do with my purchase. The lowest price did! Though I must say the M8 does look beautiful in silver/chrome but I don’t really want my camera to look like jewelry, especially if I’m going to use it.

HANDLING & IMPRESSIONS

My first impressions of the M8 back in 2010 was that it handled like an M camera. I had my M3 film camera for comparison and the M8, while definitely way more modern, did feel like a Leica M. The one big difference I felt right away was that the M8 felt quite a bit bulkier. The only film Leica M that feels this bulky is the M5.

The viewfinder is bright and easy to see. The frame lines for the lenses appear in pairs and are as follows: 24/35, 50/75, 28/90. This can be a bit confusing especially due to the 1.3x crop of the M8’s sensor so I’ll keep it short except to touch on a couple of things. A common question I hear is if you put a 50mm lens on the M8 does the 50mm frame line show up? Yes, the 50/75 frame line shows up and apparently they have been adjusted for the crop factor. The 50mm frame line would be the wider of the two (50/75) when looking through the viewfinder. And don’t forget that due to the 1.33x crop factor, a 50mm lens translate to a 66.5mm lens on the M8.

The M8 has a distinctive “clunk” to the shutter. And then you get a “whirr” from the shutter re-cocking. It is not silent but not disturbing to my ears. It is definitely not the soft shutter sound you hear on an M3, M6, or other film Leica M cameras.

To offset this, the M8 has a “discreet” mode that you can activate via menu. What happens in discreet mode is that the camera will not re-cock the shutter until your finger has lifted off the shutter release. This does help in quiet situations.

SAMPLES

Here’s just a fraction of my favorite photos from the Leica M8 over the past ten years. Some photos have been lost but I had resized copies that were used on photo sharing sites such as Flickr so the quality on some may not be optimal and not truly indicative of the M8’s potential image quality.

LEICA M8 PROS & CONS

In my video, I gave viewers “3 For 3” which is 3 Pros offset by 3 Cons. Here on the blog I am listing a few more since I’m not restricted by time constraints as I am on the videos. So here, in no particular order, are my list of pros and cons for the Leica M8:

PROS:

  1. In 2020/2021, the Leica M8 is the cheapest digital Leica M you can buy. Only on the used market of course! But the prices are trending at $1000-1600 USD.
  2. CCD Sensor. There has been a lot of debate over the years over the merits of the CCD vs CMOS sensor and I’m not the one to end that argument. What I will say is that the M8, with the right lenses, will produce images with “presence.” Images have a clarity and acuity that I have not seen in many digital cameras. Color images can have a “chrome” look of slide film and images can “pop” with the right lenses.
  3. The “Poor Man’s Monochrom:” Perhaps because of the CCD sensor and its lack of an AA filter, the M8 produces superb b&w images and has been labeled by its fans as the “Poor Man’s Monochrom.” The Leica Monochrom of course is Leica’s B&W only digital rangefinder. The original Monochrom was the 18mp version based off the M9 but there are newer models today.
  4. The M8 opens the door to the fascinating world of Leica M mount lenses. Not just from Leica, but you also get access to wonderful glass from Zeiss, Voigtlander, Canon LTM, and the wonderful low cost Russian lenses and there’s even more options if you look around.
  5. The 1.33X APS-H sensor is a good compromise between APS-C and Full Frame sensors. For street and portrait work, I actually find the 1.33x crop factor to be beneficial.

Here are the cons that are counterpoint to the pros above…

CONS:

  1. In 2020/2021, the Leica M8 would be the oldest digital Leica M body. As anyone knows, even a few years is ancient for a digital camera, so that would make the M8 beyond ancient! However, it retains its value due to several factors which I’ll discuss later on. But buying a digital camera this old is risky, make no mistake about that. However, it’s a Leica and everyone that goes up for sale eventually sells. We’ll talk more about that later!
  2. CCD Sensor Limitations. The CCD sensor on the M8, while producing lovely images, has limitations inherent to CCD sensors in general. The M8 does not do well at higher ISO values. I generally keep the M8 at low ISO’s and ISO 640 is usually my “high iso” on this camera, although I have many images at ISO 800-1600 that I like. At ISO values higher than 400 on the M8, you risk more noise and sometimes banding in the images.
  3. Color Cast Issues. While the CCD sensor and the lack of AA filter make the M8 a terrific b&w camera, the con is that this sensor is near infrared and as such it does not produce completely accurate colors. There is potential for false color especially on dark cloth where for example a black dress would turn brown or purple on the M8. Indeed early on Leica recognized this and once offered IR cut filters for free (not anymore though!). That said, in most situations, the M8 can produce punchy colors that I find very appealing.
  4. As stated in the #4 “pro” the M8 opens the door to the wonderful world of Leica M lenses. However the “con” is that in 2020, the point is moot because these lenses can be adapted to almost any system, especially mirrorless systems.
  5. The 1.33X APS-H can be a negative for wide angle lovers and anyone who is bothered by the crop factor conversion. As I said I have no problems with it, but I totally understand why people would be bothered by that.

M8 VS M8.2

If you’re looking for an M8, the M8.2 is a newer variant of the same camera and was introduced in 2008. Main differences are an updated and supposedly quieter shutter on the M8.2, sapphire glass on the lcd for better scratch resistance on the M8.2, flash synch 1/250 (M8) vs 1/180 (M8.2) and a top shutter speed of 1/8000 for the M8 and 1/4000 for the M8.2.

Out of all those things the main thing that mattered to me was the top 1/8000th shutter speed on the original M8. I like using fast glass on the M8 and fast glass means bokeh so I wouldn’t want to lose the extra shutter speeds for those rare sunny day bokeh portraits. That said if I had the M8.2 I’m sure I’d be fine with it!

ISSUES

As with any digital camera nearly fifteen years old you should be concerned with the camera developing issues.

That said, I’ve never had any real issues with my M8. I’ve shot thousands of frames on it, used it for paid weddings and engagements. But keep in mind I was never a run and gun professional. If I were using the M8 during a paid shoot, it was always with another camera or two for those kind of shoots. I would never put thousands of photos a day on my M8 like I could with say a pro EOS 1 digital body even though the M8 is supposedly rated for 150K shots.

The main issue I saw in my ten years of using the M8 was that the battery could go flat fast in cold temperatures and that’s only happened within the past couple of years. I’m still on the original battery so take that into consideration!

Anything else like noise and/or banding is not a fault of the camera but inherent to its image quality. It IS after all a camera released in 2006 and probably designed way before that. Speaking of noise/banding, that is usually seen at the higher ISO settings and personally I’ve encountered noise but no so much banding.

The other issue I hear often in the M8 is a “coffee stain” effect that occurs randomly on the back LCD. The LCD develops a flaw and it looks something like a coffee stain on the LCD. In most cases it’s just an annoyance but nothing that gets in the way of you seeing the data or affects the picture taking abilities of the camera. Leica apparently does not fix it.

Lastly and best of all, the Leica M8 does not suffer from the infamous “Sensor Corrosion” issues that plagued the M9, the original Monochrom, nor the ME, all of which are based on the original M9 sensor.

That was a very serious issue that affected thousands of cameras and in my opinion put a stain on the M9 which was perhaps the most popular and iconic Leica Digital M up until that point. Leica originally replaced the sensors for free, and sometimes the replaced sensors ended up with the corrosion. It was a mess for Leica! Today, Leica claims to have ended the M9 sensor replacement program stating that there are no more M9 sensors to be had.

Be grateful the M8 did not suffer this issue!

IS THE M8 WORTH IT FOR 2020/2021?!

So here’s the question of the day! Is the Leica M8 still worth it in 2020 going into 2021? My personal opinion is an enthusiastic YES!! Yes, for me anyway! That is my catch 🙂

For you, if you really think you want to dip into a digital rangefinder, it is a great first step and it won’t kill your bank account like the $5000 digital Leica’s will!

Just keep in mind a few things; the M8 is nearly fifteen years on the market and things can go wrong with old digital cameras. The M8 offers no modern amenities such as focus peaking, 4k video, not even HD video. But you don’t need that! That’s why you got your Fuji, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Nikon Z, EOS R right? 🙂

The M8 offers a pure, no-frills shooting experience closer to film but with the conveniences of digital. That’s what you’d want it for!

The main thing you want to do when considering an M8 is to buy it from a trusted dealer. I’ll list some affiliates below but if you buy it from places like KEH, Adorama, B&H, Amazon, UsedPhotoPro, etc, anywhere that offers a lengthy warranty I think you’d be ok. But don’t blame me if something goes wrong 🙂

A camera like the M8 is not one I’d buy off some random guy on eBay. Too risky unless the price was beyond good, which would probably mean that something was wrong with it.

And in case you don’t like it, you can always sell it. I bought mine in 2010 for $2000 and they’re still selling used for $1000-1600. In fact, nearly every M8 that goes on sale from a legitimate dealer eventually sells!

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BOTTOM LINE

The Leica M8 is one of my all time favorite cameras, film or digital! In the ten years that I have owned the camera, it remains one of the few digital cameras from that era that I still use regularly, a camera I return to time and time again.

When the M8 was first released it seemed very much like an unfinished product. The color cast issues and the need for IR Cut filters to correct them, the noise at higher ISO settings, the 1.33x crop factor could have easily doomed a lesser camera. Yet in spite of all its shortcomings, the Leica M8 is still very much revered by a large cult of camera fanatics (myself included). And it all comes down to all that the Leica M8 does right; sharp files straight out of the camera, punchy vibrant colors reminiscent of chrome film, superb b&w possibilities and a pure rangefinder experience, as pure as you can get from a digital camera.

The Leica M8 is a digital Camera Legend. The fact that we are here nearly fifteen years later still talking about it, the fact that nearly every M8 that comes to market still sells says a lot about the camera and how highly regarded it is by its devoted group of enthusiastic users. If you have one, I’d love to hear about it! 😎📸👍🏻

WHERE TO BUY?

The Leica M8 is plentiful on the used market and as mentioned before prices are trending at $1000-1600 USD. The prices also apply to the M8.2.

My best advice is to buy it from a trusted dealer. Make sure they have at the very least a 30 day return policy/warranty although ideally a 90 or 180 day warranty will give you much more peace of mind.

Leica M Cameras

Flashback Friday: Kodacolor VR 1000 Pics

Good morning awesome war-torn camera geeks! Last night I was going through a bunch of photos I haven’t seen in a long long time. They were all stored in boxes I haven’t opened in years.

Today I want to share some of them with you. These pictures are basically just snaps from a New Year’s Eve party all the way back in 1986!

Our parents had a rich doctor friend who often threw New Year parties in his New Jersey mansion. He had an elevator in his house! He had a Mercedes, a Range Rover and even a DeLorean.

We were poor kids who lived in NYC and we always appreciated a chance to get out of the apartment. No jealousy, we loved the doctor and loved seeing all his toys 😀😎

If this was in today’s world I probably wouldn’t share these photos especially if shot on a phone camera but due to the passage of time and the technical information on the photos, I thought some of you may find it of interest.

Minolta X-700, 50mm f/1.7 MD lens, Kodacolor VR 1000 film. No flash. Shot on December 31, 1986. Here’s Dad in the corner of the basement at a New Year’s Eve party taking a smoke break. Note the grain structure and soft colors.

So to set up the story for you, I was a geeky teenager in 1986 and looking back now I was lucky to be shooting a Minolta X-700 that Mom got for me & my brother. The X-700 has become one of the most desirable Minolta cameras on the used camera circuit.

The Minolta X-700 was my main camera from 1985-1994.
“Party Animals” 1986. A flash was used for this shot.

The lens I used in these pictures was the 50mm f/1.7 Minolta MD lens which was a lens I would use for the next ten years. Simply because Mom didn’t want to waste money on more camera gear because cash was tight. But it’s ok. I learned a lot using one lens 99 percent of the time. And it’s probably why even to this day I still prefer using prime lenses.

Anyway the film is the star of the show here. It’s a Kodak film and it’s ISO 1000! Now back in those days “High ISO” was nothing like we know it today and high iso film were few and far in between. Surprisingly or not high iso film is few and far even today!

The film used in these pics was Kodacolor VR 1000 color film. Based on my research it was the only Kodak ISO 1000 color film that would have been available in 1986.

“New Year’s Day” 1986. Shot on January 1, 1987. The morning after the party. “Nothing changes on New Year’s Day” as the U2 song says. I love the grainy look of this shot!

The general consensus back then was that these high iso films would be grainy, not very sharp, and intended to be used for low light or dimly lit shots. Back then the compromises were not objectionable to me because the high iso film gave me the chance to take photos without the Minolta flash I used for all my indoor party photos.

Kodacolor VR 1000 apparently used the same T-Grain technology used in some of Kodak’s Disc Camera films. No wonder the big grain looked familiar to me!

If some of you may remember I reviewed the Kodak Disc Camera here. You may find it by using the search bar.

So what do you think? I personally love the grain and grit! I wish I had more photos to show you. I might but I have to look around. Seeing these photos actually made me wish a similar film was around today but alas there isn’t.

In today’s world you could take pictures way better than these with your cell phone but then again what fun is that?! 😀

As I always tell people, try not to throw away or delete your photos, no matter how trivial. You may look back on them one day and find memories that are priceless.

SEASONS GREETINGS

The “Wacky Bunch” wishes you the best for a safe and Happy Holiday season! Stay in touch with us on social media:

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Appreciate your support, many thanks!

Photo Of The Day: “Sunday Girl” Mamiya 7 80mm f/4 Mamiya N L Lens

Good Sunday camera people! Here’s a flash forward to this Thanksgiving. I developed this last night and it’s one of those “boring test shots” that I take a lot of! 😀

Photos that I usually don’t post here (don’t we all want to post exciting shots?) but I love the pic and want to tell you about it because sometimes even simple unassuming shots can tell you a lot if you know the story behind it.

This was shot with a Mamiya 7 and 80mm f/4 Mamiya lens. Ok so I’ve had the Mamiya 7 since 2014 and used it sparingly. Now it took me like six years to get the Mamiya 80mm! So it’s not like I have the money to run out and buy stuff any time I want 😀

The 80mm was always more expensive than I wanted to spend and whenever I found one at a price I was comfortable with, I didn’t have the money.

Flash forward to 2020 and I found one for under $500 and because I had put in extra time at work due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I had extra money to spend! So don’t let anyone tell you hard work doesn’t pay off because it does 😎👍🏻

Unusually I started out with the 50mm f/4.5 wide angle but if you know me it’s not unusual at all because it was the first Mamiya 7 lens I found cheap! Got it for around $300.

The 80mm f/4 N L lens is considered more of the “standard” lens for the Mamiya 7. The field of view is equivalent to around 40mm in 35mm film. Actually it’s probably around 38 or 39mm.

I wanted one because portraits are one of my favorite things and this lens would get me closer though none of the Mamiya 7 lenses focus that closely. But I already knew and understood that I’d be doing “environmental portraits” with it as opposed to head & shoulders “bokeh” portraits. Bokeh isn’t everything right?

Anyway to make a long story short this lens as well as the Mamiya 7 has passed my tests! Here’s a portrait of the “Sunday Girl” in her environment. It’s as close as I could get to her with this lens of which the minimal focal distance is around 1 meter or 3 ft 3.37 inches.

The film was Ilford Delta 400 developed in Ilfosol-3 in the standard 1:9 dilution. Aperture was wide open at f/4 and shutter speed was 1/15th of a second.

What this says to me is that if and when I can return to NYC for street shooting at night, which was my specialty, then this combo is going to work for me! I can use the lens wide open and go down as low as 1/15th of a second.

Now rangefinders have always been better for handheld photography at low shutter speeds due to lack of mirror shock but I was concerned whether that was true with the big clunky body of the Mamiya 7. In this case as it is with many big cameras, perhaps its bulk added to its stability.

Ilfosol is also not as bad as some reviews I have read say it is. Sure this image is very contrasty and the blacks are all black but I like that high contrast look! And not all the images came out this contrasty. If you could see how dim the room was it would give a better appreciation that the image came out this vibrant.

The main post processing I did on this shot was to crop in a little as well as try and minimize the dust bunnies! I think that in today’s world where we are spoiled with ultra high megapixel cameras, some people may have forgotten that the ability to crop was one of the reasons people shoot medium format in the first place. There’s only so much you can crop into 35mm film without losing quality. And the sharpness of the Mamiya 7 lenses certainly allow me to crop in closer. That helps to negate the negatives of the system such as slowish (f4 and up) lenses as well as the inability to get in very close without that hard to use close-up lens contraption.

So will the Mamiya 7 be the next camera to be reviewed on Camera Legend?

It is a medium format legend after all right?! Well perhaps I will but I’m not too keen on doing another review on a camera everyone knows is great. But who knows perhaps I could add a word or two that you may find helpful so we’ll see!

As always, I appreciate you reading today and wish you a very happy Sunday and a great rest of the week ahead. Thank you!

Ilford Ilfosol 3

The Contax N Digital Revisited 2020

In 2014 I posted probably one of the last “real” reviews of the elusive Contax N Digital, the world’s first full frame digital SLR with a true 35mm sized sensor. By “real” I mean it’s a review by someone who had actually used the camera and not just repeating information off the internet. The original review can be found here.

Flash forward to 2020 and today I have a new review on the Contax N Digital only for you the readers of Camera Legend!

INTRODUCTION

I won’t repeat everything that I’ve already mentioned in 2014 but I think a little bit of the specs and history of the camera are important and worth repeating.

The Contax N Digital headlining claim to fame is that it is the world’s first digital slr with a 35mm sized full frame sensor. It was introduced by Kyocera in the year 2000 and brought to market in 2002.

At the heart of the camera was a 6 megapixel full frame sensor made by Philips of the Netherlands.

The Contax N Digital is based on the Contax N1 film camera and it takes the newer N Mount lenses. The N Digital, N1 and NX are not compatible with the older Contax/Yashica (aka C/Y) lenses.

YOUTUBE VIDEO

For those of you who prefer a video review, here it is:

In this video, I discuss a few things not mentioned in detail here including image quality, and a lively “film vs digital” discussion including my early (Circa 2005) experimentations of scanned 35mm film vs digital.

At that time I had a Microtek Artixscan 120f which was a high resolution 35mm & medium format optical film scanner. In 2005, I compared scanned 35mm images to my 12mp Canon EOS 5D Classic and was surprised by what I saw. I speak about these results in my video.

REVISITING HISTORY

To fully appreciate how big this was in the camera world back then one must remember that the top cameras of the digital world from 2000-2002 were cameras with APS-C sensors like the 2.7mp Nikon D1, the 3mp EOS D30, and the 3mp Fuji S1 Pro plus a plethora of 1-3mp small sensor digital point and shoots.

As I said in 2014, the Contax N Digital was full frame before any of us knew what “full frame” was! Of course, I was talking tongue in cheek but you know what I mean. If you don’t, I was basically saying that in those days every megapixel seemed to mean something. Every increase in megapixel was exciting and expensive. And digital cameras, low end and especially high end models were also expensive.

We were getting used to APS-C sensors and hoping for increased megapixels so a “full frame” sensor was not on most people’s radar. But the thought of a “full frame” digital camera was out there no doubt. However the prevailing thought was that a full frame sensor back then was either not yet technically doable or it would be incredibly expensive.

And when the N Digital came out to market, it was indeed expensive at over $7000 for the body alone. The competition, primarily Canon, followed up in that same year with their own full frame body, the original 1Ds which came to market at $7999.

Nikon did not come out with a full frame DSLR until 2007 when it released the pro D3 model.

THE 2014 REVIEW

In my 2014 review I stated that I was lucky to have a friend who allowed me to use his camera for a short time for a review. I returned the camera to my friend shortly and a few months later the camera had a dead sensor.

Thankfully my friend did not blame me for it because it was working fine for months after I returned it. However, this is one of the reasons I no longer accept from or loan cameras and lenses to other people.

Not because I’m being greedy, but I have lent cameras and lenses to friends in the past and some of the equipment would come back with scratches or dents that weren’t there before. Sometimes, the equipment would be gone for months, and I’d have to kindly ask for the equipment back. Sometimes repeatedly!

I’m not extremely picky but as a collector if something is in pristine condition I’d like to keep it that way. The thing I hate more is the feeling when someone borrows cash and they promised to give it back to you, but then you have to chase them down to get your money back. You know the feeling! 😀

At the same time, I hate borrowing equipment from my friends for the same reasons. But since the Contax N Digital is so rare, I just had to ask! And my friend was kind enough to let me use it for a couple of weeks in 2013. I’ve always felt a little guilty for my friend’s dead sensor even though I know in my heart that I treated that camera with kid gloves and it was working when I gave it back to him.

(Above) An image from my 2014 review showing a little of that “Zeiss Pop” otherwise known as the Zeiss 3D effect. Contax N Digital, 50mm f/1.4 N Zeiss Planar.

Anyway, if you’ll remember from my 2014 review, I helped arrange and send the camera out to Kyocera for a repair and it came back a couple months later as “Unrepairable.”

FLASH FORWARD TO 2020

I was browsing photo gear ads without any real intent to buy anything when I saw a listing for a Contax N Digital for $477 USD. It was in “Bargain” condition (you know the dealer!) and no notes about a bad sensor.

Remembering what happened to my friend’s camera, but still so curious, I was hesitant but I bit hard and bought the camera!

The model I bought looked exactly like my friend’s (why wouldn’t it?) and worked well except it would only AF using the back AF-ON button.

If you’ll remember what I mentioned in 2014, I kept the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Contax N lens to use with my N1 and NX film cameras so I used this same lens on my new to me N Digital.

The images were just as beautiful as I remembered in 2013, color and everything looked the same. I was happy!

SAMPLE IMAGES

Here are some of the better images I got from my short five months with the N Digital in 2020. Images were shot using mostly ISO 200-400. I have always loved the Contax 50mm f/1.4 N Zeiss Planar and in combination with the sensor on the N Digital, I feel they are a perfect portrait combo, which is why you see a lot of pictures of the kids 🙂

Most images have been processed but most remain very close to the original files. Any of the images with trees have not been processed if you need to know for camera geek reasons 😀👍🏻

THE SURPRISE

About a week in to using the camera, a couple of photos started showing purple lines and blacked out images. I said uh oh! I remember seeing this on my friend’s camera back in 2014. I knew what was happening. The sensor was going to give out! 😦

This is how a failing sensor looks. Images begin to have lines, streaks, and discoloration.

In all honesty, it wasn’t a surprise to me. I was expecting the camera not to even work and when I saw the sensor failing, it didn’t surprise me at all.

I was all ready to pack up the camera for a refund when I took a few more shots and the photos came out fine. What? Yep that’s what I said!

I figure ok, no doubt the sensor is going to fail but if it works for a year I’ll keep it and take the loss so long as I get some nice pics out of it.

So over the next few months, I used it sparingly. As I’ve mentioned many times, much to the chagrin of Contax fanboys, Kyocera/Contax electronics are very delicate, fragile even.

I basically used the camera only on weekends, maybe 5-10 shots at a time. I always made sure it had fully charged AA batteries in it.

About five months into my ownership of the camera, the Contax N Digital gave up the ghost. After one last good picture, it started shooting only blanks. Black screen. It was game over.

This is how images look when the sensor finally dies. The camera starts shooting blanks. Nothing but black screen images.

I did everything I could think of to see if I could get it to start taking pictures again. I cleaned the contacts, tried different settings, tried RAW, Tiff, what have you. No dice. The sensor was dead.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

If you’re seeking the Contax N Digital, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea, I have revised my trending prices to around $500-2000 USD for the N Digital body only. That is, if you can find one, and in working condition!

I would not recommend it unless it had a working sensor and at a very low price. Anything in the $2000 range would have to be old new stock, brand new in box, which I think is almost impossible to find.

As in the two copies I have tried, when the sensor dies, the rest of the camera may still work which is a shame because without a sensor, it becomes something like a chicken without a head or a man without a heart. A digital camera without a sensor becomes a paperweight. In the case of the N Digital, it’s an expensive paperweight.

As I mentioned in my video, I even reached out by email to Roger Cicala of LensRentals.com, a man known for tearing down cameras and lenses to see their innards and how they worked. I asked Roger if he or his team would like to open up my Contax N Digital and see if they could fix it. He politely declined to do it 🙂

BOTTOM LINE

I said this in my 2014 review and I’ll say it again…As the world’s first 35mm full frame digital SLR, the Contax N Digital is no doubt a Camera Legend.

However, it’s hard to find them, and almost impossible to find one in working condition. The main issue appears to be dead sensors in these cameras which are in Kyocera’s own words “Unrepairable.”

The camera was pulled from the market very early in its production run so it’s apparent now that Kyocera either may have known something we didn’t know or perhaps it cost them too much to produce versus how many sold. We’ll never know.

Take it from me and avoid the urge to buy one. I was your guinea pig. I did it for you guys! I can almost guarantee that if you can find a rare working model with a working sensor, that sensor will fail if you use the camera enough.

All that said, I will say something that might surprise you…when it was working, the Contax N Digital might have been my favorite DSLR ever!! I love the way it renders. There’s something to the images. A lot has to do with the Zeiss lenses but I also give credit to the flawed Philips 6mp CCD sensor. In my opinion, images can have that rare 35mm “film-like” quality and it has a lot to do with the low resolution sensor. I speak more about this in my video so check it out if you’re interested.

The N Digital also has some very digital qualities such as banding and not so pretty noise at higher iso ranges or underexposed images. But overall its images can be impressive especially when you remember it’s a camera introduced in the year 2000!

(Above) The Contax N Digital is among my favorite cameras of all time. Unfortunately, they never last and almost always end up with dead sensors

Looking back today, it’s clear that in 2002 Canon was on the verge of releasing the 1Ds, the world’s second 35mm full frame digital slr. Contax just beat them to it, but by beating them to it, they have that distinction of being the first and anything “first” will always be remembered.

So despite the Contax/Yashica brand being gone for years now, I do miss them. They thought differently and brought something different to the camera world and the Contax N Digital is a prime example of this. Despite the sad fact that in my opinion and experience, the sensor will inevitably fail and is unrepairable, the Contax N Digital will always be a Camera Legend as the world’s first 35mm full frame digital slr. It will always have a place in my heart as a camera I have experienced and loved, as well as a camera that will always have me thinking what could have been.

Photo Of The Day: “Autumn” 😍

It’s early November and around here where I live the leaves are well past their peak. This photo was taken a few weeks ago up in Rockland County, about 25 miles from NYC. The autumn leaves were still at their beautiful peak and I just had to get some shots. This was one of my favorites.

The camera I used was the Olympus Pen-F Digital, my current favorite digital camera and the Panasonic LUMIX 20mm f/1.7 G lens. I’ve had this lens since 2009 and it’s sharp, versatile, and always delivers the goods.

Whatever you shoot, there are still a lot of Autumn remnants. It’s a beautiful season for photography. Get out there and shoot! 😎📸👍🏻

YouTube Video Part III…Results, Poor Man’s Rollei Wide, and What YOU Need To Start Developing Film

Good morning you war torn hardcore camera geeks! Just posted last night the latest (I don’t want to say last) installment of the “The Lonely Art Of Film Developing.”

As stated in the video, when I first thought of doing this, I just wanted to take you guys through the process, give people an idea of what a film developing session is like, for me at least.

The focus was not really to show you pretty results or anything, although the results are just a by product of this.

As you’ll see in the video, before I even thought of making the video, I was testing a Rolleiflex 3.5F with a 0.7x Mutar which is an add on lens that turns the 75mm lens of the 3.5F into a 55mm, or around 28 or 30mm in 35mm equivalent.

The goal was to see if this would work for me as a poor man’s Rollei Wide. The Rollei Wide is the Rolleiflex with the 55mm f/4 lens. The prices for these cameras are insane, like $3000-4000 insane! Like Crazy Eddie’s “Insane!!” 😀👍🏻

They have pretty much become collector’s items. In comparison my poor man’s version cost me $400 total.

I’ve read in many forums and discussions that the Mutar is junk, that it doesn’t get sharp until you stop it down to f/11 or f/16 even. But there were a few who said it was very good, fine even. Since opinions differ greatly, I wanted to find out for myself.

The above photo is a good example. I shot this probably at f/4 or 5.6. I definitely did not stop the lens down to f/11 or f/16.

Maybe I’m not as demanding as the $4000 Rollei collector but the sharpness is perfectly acceptable to me. Center sharpness is best but even corner sharpness is not bad. Sure it may not be a match for a $4000 Rollei Wide but the point here is that this is good enough for me! If you want to see the photo larger, just pinch the photo to enlarge it if you have a phone, tablet or smart computer.

The film was Ilford HP5 Plus developed in ID-11. This is one of the frames I developed in Part II of my video.

I still have some more testing to do with the 3.5F and Mutar but needless to say, it works for me! I’m happy with my poor man’s Rollei wide and as most of you know, you can’t get much better in photography than getting something good for cheap! 🙂

Also in this video I discuss a little bit of the basics you would need to get started in the fascinating world of black and white film developing.

To make it easier, here’s a list of the items you would need. Please understand, these are affiliate links. You pay nothing extra and I may get a few cents, maybe not even enough to buy a cup of coffee but every little bit helps the site to grow.

As always, thanks for reading and I truly appreciate your support!

LIST OF THINGS YOU NEED TO GET STARTED:

1) Patterson Tank https://amzn.to/3kstlBr

2) Kodak D76 Developer https://amzn.to/3kfJmue

3) HC-110 (Great Developer!) https://amzn.to/2T6PZTP

4) Kodak Rapid Fixer https://amzn.to/3m3Byw1

5) Kodak Photo Flo https://amzn.to/31qabEG

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