Photo Of The Day: “That Smile”

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My little “Country Bumpkin” in 2008.

This could be considered a “Flashback Friday” post. This is my elder daughter in 2008, just a little more than a year old.

Shot with an Epson R-D1 and a seventy plus year old 50mm f/2 Leica Summar lens. I had just gotten this lens in rough condition on eBay for under $100. I was so enamored that it was giving me these (to me) beautiful soft/sharp images, just what I’d been looking for!

The Epson R-D1 was a 6.1mp camera, the world’s first digital rangefinder, and one of my favorite old school digital cameras ever. I’ve been meaning to do a flashback review of this camera, but this is one of those cameras that I love so much, I would need a lot to time to do it justice. Time I simply don’t have tonight. But I’ll get to it, eventually 🙂

Have a good Friday and a good weekend everybody!

Best, Sam

Tuesday Titans: The Leica R8 (R9)

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I might as well call this “Tuesday Night Titans” as a tribute to the old WWF (now WWE) rasslin’ show 🙂

The Leica R8 is a 35mm film SLR introduced by Leica in 1996. The R9 was introduced in 2002 and was the last film SLR made by Leica for their R series which was discontinued in 2009.

Although the R9 was marketed at the time as a new model, it is pretty much an upgraded R8. The bulk of this review is based on my extended use of the R8. R9 differences will be pointed out later on in this article.

While the R8 appears much like an autofocus camera, it is not. It’s an electronic camera that relies on batteries for everything, and it is pure manual focus.

THE LEICA R8 BODY

The Leica R8 (and R9) look radically different from any Leica single lens reflex before it. It is huge, it is massive, it is a TITAN!!

I remember reading about the R8 in one of those cool British photography magazines in the late 90s. I remember thinking it was huge and cool and even a little crazy. I never thought about getting one until I started picking up R lenses to use on my 5D in the mid 2000s.

After seeing how great these lenses were, I found a great deal on an R8 in 2008 and although I’ve sold off a whole load of stuff since then, I still hang on to the R8.

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“Lots Of Love” 2008. Leica R8, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Ilford XP2.

The camera feels great in the hand. Heavy, robust, and well put together. The controls are definitely in the Leica bloodline, spartan and uncluttered.

The Mode dial is on the top left. It has all your usual modes, manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, and a very unusual “F” flash metering mode. I could write about this, but it would take a whole half page and I’ve never used it. In a nutshell, the mode is used in conjunction with the camera’s pc socket and your flash which can be a dedicated flash unit or a number of studio strobes. You trigger the flash (or strobes) in “F” mode and it will help you determine flash exposure values which you can see on the back LCD without actually taking a shot, saving you from wasting film. At least that’s how I understand it.

On the top right of the camera is the shutter speed dial which runs from 16s to 1/8000th of a second. A good rule to remember when buying cameras is that any camera with 1/8000 means serious business even if 99 percent of the time we never use that shutter speed!

The 93 percent coverage viewfinder is bright and clear, but appears smaller and not as easy to focus as that on the older Leicaflex SL series. You probably would’ve expected 100 percent viewfinder coverage on a camera like this, and so did I.

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“Man In Black” 2015. Leica R8, 80mm f/1.4 Summilux-R, Tri-X 400 developed in Ilford ID-11 developer. My man Mr. Louis Mendes, NYC fixture, icon, and friend. I don’t know how many times I’ve photographed Lou over the years, but I never tire of it. Awesome guy, awesome photographer!

Funny thing, when I first got the R8 I felt as if I could never be sure if I had things in critical focus or not, having been spoiled by the SL viewfinder. I was a little obsessed about it to the point that I had even contacted several highly regarded Leica “people” including repair expert Don Goldberg (DAG) and famed Leica nature shooter Doug Herr. Both gentlemen were extremely helpful. However, in the end, I never did anything to the viewfinder.

My fears dissipated when roll after roll, 80-90 percent of the images were always in sharp focus, which is actually better than a lot of other manual focus bodies I have used.

“Baby Love” 2008. Leica R8, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Ilford XP2. Despite my fears, I was able to manually focus well enough on the R8 to get roll after roll of mostly sharp shots. The color cast is the result of a drug store scan, which I have not bothered to correct.

Don’t let me scare you though. What happened to me was that the images looked “in focus” in the R8 viewfinder, but it didn’t have a reassuring “snap” to it the way the SL did and that concerned me. I don’t know if the screen in my R8 is original stock, but it doesn’t have a split-image focusing screen in it, which always helps if you’re unsure.

But again, my fears were unwarranted so I no longer have issues focusing on the R8. Most of the time, if it looks in focus, it probably is.

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“Lonely Still” 2008. Leica R8, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Ilford XP2.

The shutter is well damped and smooth in its sound. Always a sign of a high quality camera.

ISSUES

In the first few years that the R8 was out on the market, there were numerous reports on reliability issues. Leica reportedly, at that time, fixed these issues free of charge.

All I can say is in the eight years I’ve had the camera, knock on wood, I never had a problem with it.

It is likely, but not certain, that if you buy one today and it’s in working condition, it’s probably fine.

If you’re worried about this, that’s one good reason to buy an R9 which apparently fixed everything. However, the R9 on the used market is a good $500 more than a used R8.

Here’s a good page on R8 ISSUES including suspected serial number ranges.

IS THE LEICA R8/R9 THE ULTIMATE LEICA CAMERA?

If Leica had not discontinued their R system bodies, lenses, and accessories, it is my opinion that the Leica R could stand out as the ultimate Leica film body, even when compared to their beloved rangefinders.

Whether you love it or hate it, it’s a standout body. There’s nothing in their film range of cameras that looks like it. I’ve compared a lot of these monstrous cameras to the Canon EOS-1, but I can’t even compare the R8 to that behemoth in its looks. It stands alone.

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“Past Imperfect” 2010. Leica R8, 80mm f/1.4 Summilux, Tri-X.

I know people who think this camera is butt ugly, and I can’t remember if I was one of them, but what I can tell you is that most people who love the R8 end up loving it after they have held and used one.

To me now, it feels and looks awesome and it produces great results, roll after roll.

THE UNIQUE LEICA DIGITAL MODULE R (DMR)

The Leica R8 and R9 have the distinction of being the only 35mm film camera that could be converted to a digital body by replacing the film back with a digital back that Leica made called the “Digital Module R” otherwise known as the “DMR.”

The DMR used a 10mp Kodak CCD sensor and was highly praised by those lucky enough to use it. I was not one of them. They were and are always pricey and scarce on the used market.

At the dawn of the digital era, around 1996 or so, there were dreams of turning film cameras into digital. You may have remembered reading about this. If you forgot the main company pushing this idea at the time, they were called “Silicon Film.” Do a Google search if you’re interested.

Anyway, although it held great promise, the “digital film” concept never materialized in production.

To this date, only the only 35mm cameras that could be turned into digital are the R8 and R9 bodies, again, assuming you can find, or really want to buy a 10mp digital back for over $2000 used.

LENS COMPATABILITY

To further complicate things, the Leica R8/R9 are recommended to be used only with Leica 3-Cam or ROM lenses. The 1-CAM or 2-CAM lenses can damage the ROM contacts on the R8/R9 bodies. You can get these lenses converted to 3-CAM or ROM by a specialist. As a disclaimer, me being foolhardy and cheap, I’ve used 2-CAM lenses on the R8 with no issues, but I don’t recommend it and don’t blame me if you try this and it ruins your camera 🙂

LEICA R9 DIFFERENCES

The R9 is 100g lighter than the R8. The R9 has a special edition “Anthracite” model, in addition to the black model. The R9 has an LCD frame counter on the top plate, the R8 has the frame counter on the back LCD.

There were also some changes in the electronics, mainly to better support Metz’s flash units. Reliability is supposedly better with the R9. Do a little research on this if this interests or concerns you.

Overall though, they are pretty much the same camera.

BOTTOM LINE

The Leica R8/R9 were the climatic highlight of the Leica R System, a system which was never as popular as Leica’s own M System and a system which is now dead.

The R lenses were, in most cases, every bit as good as their M counterparts, but the R bodies were not. The R8 and R9 were said to be the only electronic R bodies which had nothing to do with Leica’s partnership with Minolta. But sadly, it’s too little, too late for the R system.

Ironically, digital photography and the popularity of adapted lenses have resurrected the R system lenses from the dead, at least on the used market and prices are dramatically higher than they were only a few years ago. I’m so glad I got my R lenses when the tide was low.

The R8 and R9 are eye-catchers in terms of looks, but more importantly, they are superb shooters which can produce fantastic results. Although they now belong to a technically dead system, the Leica R8 and R9 represented the pinnacle of Leica’s foray into the 35mm single lens reflex arena and they are true Camera Legends which serves to remind us of Leica’s past and gave us a glimpse into Leica’s future.

NOTE FOR POTENTIAL BUYERS

While I love the R8 and the R System lenses, I would not recommend you start with an R8 or R9 if its your first foray into this system. I certainly would not recommend the DMR unless you have money to burn.

The reasons are many…

It’s a dead system. I’m not sure if Leica will still repair the R8/R9. I’m pretty sure they don’t repair the DMR any longer.

The ability to adapt the R lenses to many, many systems including many full-frame systems negate the purpose of the DMR, which remains pricey on the used market.

If wanting to get your feet wet in the Leica R System, spending as little as you can, the all manual Leicaflex SL is a much better choice. No batteries necessary, better viewfinder, and cheaper. Body should be $100 or less. A good lens to start with is the 50mm f/2 Summicron-R and for the SL, you could probably find a 1-CAM version for around $300 or under. That’s the cheapest way to get into the Leica R System.

WHERE TO BUY?

If you really have your heart set on an R8 or R9, I can’t blame you after all the stuff I just wrote about it 🙂

Prices are trending at $350-500 for the R8 and $650-1000 or more for the R9. And for delicate electronic cameras you really should buy from a place with a good return warranty.

For a safe purchase try HERE and HERE in the USED section.

Happy hunting and if you do get one, please be sure to drop me a note, would sure love to hear about it!

***DEAL ALERT***

For those of you into more modern stuff, there are some great savings on Panasonic Gear.

Also if you’re an Olympus user, take advantage of the current Olympus Lens Rebates. There’s no better time to buy lenses for your OM-D or Pen series cameras.

Black & White Portraits

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“The Tsingtao Boy” 2009. Canon F-1N, 50mm f/1.4 FD lens, Tri-X. Chinatown, NYC.

While I do love color photography, there’s just something different about black and white photography that really endears me to it. And when you combine b&w with people (or animals!), that really takes it to another level for me.

These are just some b&w images taken over the years. Like I’ve said before, sometimes I do want to remind myself that I love shooting almost as much as I love cameras…I think! These are also images from cameras I am planning to review for you, cameras like the Leica M8 and the Canon F-1N, which is one of my favorite Canon bodies ever, past or present.

It seems almost unbelievable to me that it has taken this long, but after two weeks I’m finally getting my main working computer back today! As I mentioned before, this really set me back as far as content for this website is concerned and I’m just beginning to catch up. Thanks to those who continue to visit and I do appreciate your time and comments.

This is admittedly going to be a busy week and writing a blog with any kind of content takes a lot of time. Even my shortest article takes me almost half a day. I admire those who can do this consistently on a daily basis, I know I can’t!

Hope you all have a good short week in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA.

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“Man In The Middle” 2011. Canon Powershot G10, Paranaque, Philippines.

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“Imported From The Past” 2011. Nikon F4s, Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AIS. The great Louis Mendes stands out like an icon from the past with his old school Speed Graphic and sharp, retro outfits.

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“Vimeo” 2006. Canon Rebel XT, Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC. I was buying a lens from this man and I took this shot while testing it. I found out a couple of years later that he is apparently one of the founders of the video sharing site Vimeo!

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“The Competition” 2006. Canon Rebel XT, Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC. Sometimes facial expression tells you everything!

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“Time Will Not Wait” 2011. Leica M8, 35mm f/2 Zeiss Biogon. Koh Samui, Thailand.

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“Brother Blues” 2010. Leica M8, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M. Washington Square Park, NYC.

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“My Door Is Open” 2011. Leica M8, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M. Nonthaburi, Thailand.

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“The Godfather Of Bangkok” 2011. Minolta CLE, 40mm f/2 Summicron-M, Tri-X. A scene from a restaurant on the side streets of Bangkok, Thailand. With one hand on his meal, the other hand reaches for the plate before anyone else could get to it first. Don’t mess with the Godfather of Bangkok! 🙂

A couple of my favorite portraits from the selection above were done with Sigma lenses. Our affiliate and friends at Adorama is offering some incredible savings on SIGMA lenses which only runs through 11/30/15 so if you wanted to pick up some of those super sharp “ART” lenses, this is a good time to do it! And if you order within a certain time, they make every effort to ship same day, which is a great benefit to buying from Adorama versus the competition.


 

PhotoPlus Expo Show Report Part II: Canon, Nikon, Sony, Etc

The Leica SL (Typ 601) was the Big Daddy for me at this year’s PhotoPlus Expo, no doubt. I mean, after that, where do you go? 🙂

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The Leica S and SL gallery of images.

Anyway, I know there’s a lot of other “fish in the ocean” so I’ll try to give you guys a rundown of other things I saw. This is Part II and my final show report for this year’s expo, but it is by no means a “complete” report of the show, it would take way too much time to do that and I’m sorry if I left out anything someone might have been interested in. I leave the complete reporting for sites like dpreview, etc, etc.

CANON

Canon had all their big guns out as well as their hot new lenses. Obviously, the cameras getting the most attention were the Canon 5DS and 5DS R, their 50 megapixel super DSLRs.

I tried the 5DSr and low and behold…it looks and feels like a 5D! I don’t know what else to tell ya! It feels good, it’s dependable, it’s a 5D series camera. Nothing super exciting, but you know it’s going to get the job done.

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Trying out the new Canon 5DS R, 50.6 megapixel champion with the 24-70mm f/2.8 II. Nice combo!

The Canon rep did ask, to my surprise, if I wanted to put a card in there and try it out. Of course, I didn’t have a card on me! All these years I’ve gotten used to the idea that manufacturers won’t let you put a card in their demo cameras so I didn’t bring one.

But I don’t regret it. What will I get? Some boring pics of the crowd at the expo? All the samples I need, I can find on the web anyway.

Canon did have some really nice large prints showcasing the capabilities of these cameras.

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Prints from the Canon 5DS and 5DS R. I walked right up to the print and saw hairs on the model’s nose. That’s resolution for you! 🙂

They looked gorgeous, superb, but not mind-blowing. I’m not taking anything away from these incredible 50mp cameras, but I didn’t think the prints were anything that you couldn’t do with today’s crop of 20+ megapixel cameras. It’s really a new day in photography when one has a hard time being impressed with 50mp prints!

I did ask the Canon representative if there was a 1DX replacement coming any time soon. The 1DX is nearly five years old now and seems due for an upgrade. The answer was that they do not know. Are you surprised? 🙂

Canon also had all their new lenses out, and I had a good time looking at them, although it’s not like I’m going to be getting any new lenses any time soon.

NIKON

Nikon had their usual DSLR lineup at the show. Of course, the D4s was there, the Df, and surprisingly the very old D3X was also on hand.

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“I AM GENERATION IMAGE.” Nikon’s new cool slogan 🙂

All their big daddy lenses out for all to drool and fool around with. Nothing new as far as I can see.

Actually the coolest thing I saw at the Nikon booth was the retro looking black and silver J5 mirrorless camera 🙂

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Coolest Nikon at the show! The retro looking Nikon J5 mirrorless.

UPDATE 11/01/15: Just want to pass along some info for our Nikon fans out there that I have been informed of HUGE instant rebates going on for a limited time. You can check out all the Nikon deals HERE. From what I can see some of the instant savings are up to as high as $1100!! on certain Nikon camera/lens combos. If you’re looking to buy new Nikon stuff, this is the time to do it!

You may also find the Nikon deals HERE. While browsing/dreaming, I was amazed at the deals and wish I had the funds! For example, you can now get a new Nikon D7100 for close to the price of a USED D7000. This is a screamin’ deal for some of Nikon’s hottest cameras and lenses.

SONY

I had a good time checking out the new Sony A7RII and A7SII, I couldn’t get my hands on the RX1R II due to lack of time.

The new cameras felt great, but to tell you the truth, since getting my A7R last year I have very little interest in spending any more to ‘upgrade’ a camera that works well for my needs.

I’m finally at a point, thank God, where I really am not interested in the latest and greatest!

Note: Still editing pics, I have some from the Sony booth that I may post. Maybe, maybe not 🙂

FUJIFILM

Fuji had a hot booth showcasing their latest cameras and lenses. I was impressed with the prints from the X-T1. If my old X-Pro 1 had focused anywhere as good as the new Fujis, I would’ve never given up on the X system.

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The ever popular Fujifilm spot.

Fuji also had a very cool “retro” area showcasing their popular line of Instax cameras. I give Fuji a lot of credit for being one of the very few manufacturers still dedicated to making instant cameras and instant film.

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Fuji posted some wonderful pics, mostly from their X-T1 cameras.




ETC, ETC

Aside from the Leica SL (Typ 601), the only other camera I really wanted to see at the show as the fabled Ricoh/Pentax full-frame. Apparently, they had a near complete mock-up that was shown early on in the show, but it was no longer there when I went on Saturday.

My thoughts on this? Ricoh/Pentax…guys, enough of this hide and seek! If it’s that hard and if it’s going to take you that long to bring out a full-frame DSLR, don’t worry about it! It may be a showcase product, but it’s not like you’ll be selling a boatload of these vs Canon, Nikon, or Sony.

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“Imagine. Change.” Ricoh/Pentax’s lineup. Always a very capable system and a great alternative to the Big Boys.

I’m a huge Ricoh/Pentax fan, but they’ve taken way too long with this thing. I’m all for “getting it right” and maybe that’s what they’re doing, but the longer they take, the more likely the tech inside the camera will be outdated.

They did have the awesome 645Z there and the images I’ve seen from this camera at its best eclipses almost anything else out there. At $6995, you can get this 51mp digital Medium Format camera for less than the new Leica SL! Wow!! 🙂

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“You Know You Want It.” Ricoh/Pentax rep and customer debating on the hot Pentax 645Z camera system 🙂

Zeiss was on hand with all their HOT lenses! However, I don’t see myself being able to afford one of these any time soon 🙂

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Hot lenses!! Who doesn’t love Zeiss? I don’t even know one photographer who doesn’t 🙂

FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE EXPO

The PhotoPlus Expo is always a lot of fun, especially if you’ve never been there. But every year, the cameras and lenses have gotten better to the point where I feel it’s no longer all that exciting…for me, anyway.

I go there to check out the latest gear, yes, but I also go to hook up with good friends who I haven’t seen in a while. Sadly this year I wasn’t able to go on the day when the “Dream Team” was attending and they know who I’m talking about! Sorry about that, and hope to hook up in the near future 🙂

Let me say this; if you have a modern Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, etc, you probably have a camera that’s “good enough” for your needs. We are very lucky to live in an age where cameras can do what they can do, I love it! That said, the better these cameras get, the more film I shoot 🙂

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“Film Buddies.” With my analog brother, Mr. Louis Mendes, NYC street photography icon. The Master Blaster has always been good to me and I consider him a friend and an inspiration.

I apologize to anyone who found this report lacking. I know there are a lot of Canon, Nikon, and Sony fans who probably wanted a little more.

I’m not a reporter. I’m a fan. I went to the show as a fan of these manufacturers and their products, and I am relaying what I saw, what I experienced.

Best,
Sam




PhotoPlus Expo Show Report I: Hands On With The Leica SL (Typ 601)

Ho! There she is…

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Hands on with the Leica SL (Typ 601) and Vario-Elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-3.5 ASPH at PhotoPlus Expo in NYC. As I handed the combo back to the Leica representatives, I thought of Biggie’s immortal words…”It was all a dream” 🙂

I’ve been going to PDN’s PhotoPlus Expo show in NYC every year since 2007 to check out the latest and greatest gear. High on my list of priorities this year was to get a glimpse and hopefully try out Leica’s new SL (Typ 601), their new 24mp, full-frame mirrorless system camera.

As I approached Leica’s booth, a little anticipation came over me. I don’t know why, maybe it’s the Leica name, mystique, “German Heritage” or what have you. I was a little worried that I, a mere peon, would be “snubbed” by the people representing this Camera Legend.

I need not have worried. The Leica reps were among the nicest people at the show! Certainly a lot nicer than the Nikon rep I ran into, but I’ll leave it at that for Nikon.

Anyway, I asked the Leica representative if I could try the SL and he handed the camera to me right away.

I actually picked up one with a smaller Leica T lens on it, and he said, “Take this one better” as he handed me the SL and 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Elmarit, which is their full-frame setup.

LOOK, DESIGN, FEEL AND USE

The camera, together with the zoom lens, felt very solid. It did look like a Sony A7 series, but was larger and felt much beefier.

The materials used to cover the camera body felt very nice to the touch, grippy and comfortable.

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“The Last & The First.” From left, Leica’s S (Typ 007) digital Medium Format system, the Leica R8 (mine!) and the Leica SL (Typ 601). I asked the Leica representative if I could put my R8 next to the SL and take a photo of them together. He said yes and liked the idea so much, he asked if he could take the same photo! Of course, I said yes 🙂

The design and controls are very minimalist, very Leica. There were some buttons which I’m not sure were labeled, which could be a problem in usage, and I’m not sure this was a pre-production model or not. If it is, I would hope they will have better labeling and indicators on their final production model cameras.

The view in the EVF looked great. Just like the Sony A7 series, it was very sharp and easy to see. The AF was very fast and accurate on first impressions and easy test targets. If I had more time with it, I probably could’ve selected harder to focus subjects, but time was of the essence so I didn’t have that luxury.

THE LENS

The Vario-Elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH was huge. If was big and beefy. You have to wonder why in today’s world, a zoom lens of this range has to be so large and heavy.

The zooming action was smooth and the lens focused very fast and accurately on the SL under the bright shows lights of the expo.

As I understand it, this lens has built-in optical stabilization which is always a great thing to have. The Leica representative stated that this lens could do macro mode on both ends of the zoom range, which is quite unique and something you don’t see in many lenses.

As a prime lens lover though, I did ask the Leica representative if they had any primes in the works for this camera.

He mentioned a 90-280mm tele-zoom, and then stated they were going to have a 50mm f/1.4 Summilux lens for this camera that will “set new standards.”

I said, ‘So you’re going after the Zeiss Otus?’ and the answer was “Yes.” Now this I have to see! 🙂

MY THOUGHTS

The camera is a beautiful monstrosity! Ugly, but beautiful at the same time. It feels great in the hand and the operations were smooth.

I think the SL is going to be a great camera, I don’t doubt that. However, at $7450 for the body and $4950 for the zoom lens, this is strictly for the hardcore Leicaphilles. I wouldn’t be able to even put a down payment for these 🙂

I suspect most people will opt for the Sony option, which offers similar and even better spec’d cameras at much lower prices.

Even though I didn’t ask the representatives outright, I do suspect that the SL and especially that 24-90mm Vario-Elmarit to be made by Panasonic.

The lens is very reminiscent of the Vario-Elmarit 14-50mm f/2.8-3.5 ASPH which they released in 2006 as a kit lens for the 7.5mp Panasonic DMC-L1 and Leica Digilux 3 cameras which were 4/3’s system cameras.

That was also a beefy lens. The look, the lettering, everything screams Panasonic. Nothing against Panasonic, they make awesome cameras. In fact, if Panasonic released a twin of the SL under their own name, I’d be inclined to try it!

Leica has made their name as a premium brand, and they earned it. I totally understand that. But in today’s world, with SO many digital camera choices out there, I think they are doing themselves and their fans (myself included) a disservice by pricing themselves right out of the market.

Despite all I’ve said about pricing, there will be one thing I can predict with confidence…the SL (Typ 601) will sell out on its first run! 🙂

WHERE TO BUY?

If you’ve got serious cash to spend, you can pre-order the Leica SL HERE and the matching Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH HERE. It’s slated to be released for sale November 20, 2015.

If you get this camera, you’re a CAMERA LEGEND in my book and I want to hear from you! 🙂

Leica R Images

As a follow up to last night’s article on the Leica SL (Typ 601) mirrorless full frame system from Leica, tonight I am posting some Leica R images, both film and digital that I have taken over the years.

The Leica R system was Leica’s 35mm SLR system. Though it had its own large and cultish following, it never set the world on fire the way Leica’s M system did.

That said, Leica R lenses were every bit as good as their M system equivalents and at one time commanded much lower prices. But through online forums, the internet, and the popularity of alternative lens adapters, the prices for the R lenses have gone way up.

I had an almost complete collection of the “essential” R lenses, including the 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R, 50mm f/2 Summicron-R, the 80mm f/1.4 Summilux-R, the 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, the 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R and the hard to find 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-R.

While I had to sell most of them when I hit rock bottom, the one I regret selling the most was the 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-R. I had a persistent overseas buyer who offered me twice what I paid for it. I needed the money. That was five years ago. I have yet to find another one as their prices have skyrocketed to the point where I don’t even consider it.

Still, you may find bargains in the R lens lineup that you won’t with the M lenses. So for your Throwback Thursday, I present you a small set of Leica R images that I hope will show some of the characteristics of these fantastic lenses. Please click on the images for a better view. Thanks for lookin’

Best Regards,
Sam

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“Blue Bayou” 2008. Leicaflex SL, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Kodak Portra film.

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“Lots Of Love” 2008. Leica R8, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Ilford XP2.

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“Bonnie & Clyde” 2008. Leica R8, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Ilford XP2.

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“UFO” 2012. Leica R4, 80mm f/1.4 Summilux-R, Tri-X film.

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“Lonely Still” 2008. Leica R8, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Ilford XP2.

 

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“Those Eyes” 2008. Canon EOS 5D, 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R

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“The Entrance” 2008. Leicaflex SL, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Fuji Superia X-Tra 800.

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“Ordinary Day” 2013. Canon EOS 1Ds, Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R. The focus was off, but I kinda liked it.




Some Film Images Part II

I had so much fun going down memory lane last night, I decided to do it again, one more night. This time the focus is on people and portraits. Back to reviewing cameras soon, I promise 🙂

Again, captioned with these images are equipment that I have profiled or am planning to profile. Most of the gear I no longer have, except for the negatives and memories I have of them.

And again, while I love reviewing equipment, I love the equipment even more if it helps me take a decent pic!

Also as mentioned in the last article, a lot of these photos were posted for photo sharing sites long before I started blogging on WordPress. As such, some were resized much smaller than I’d like, but it would take me forever to locate the originals and work on them again. I thank you kindly for taking a look.

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“Separate Your Colors” 2011. Contax T3, Fuji Reala. Manila, Philippines.

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“The NWA” 1990. Minolta X-700, miscellaneous brand 80-200mm. No this is not Dr. Dre and the “West Coast” NWA. This is “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and the original NWA 🙂

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“The Young & The Restless” 1988. Minolta X-700, 50mm f/1.7 MD lens. Los Angeles, California. I was at the Farmer’s Market in L.A. and checking out magazines at a newsstand when I spotted two (then) very popular soap opera stars, Tracey E. Bregman and Doug Davidson, who were also checking out magazines. They must have been on a break from their show which was being filmed at CBS Studios nearby. I asked them for a photo and they graciously obliged. I was most impressed that they had no movie star “issues” and smiled for a geeky teenager with a camera 🙂

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“The Gentle Giant” 2011. Nikon F4s, 28mm f/2.8 AIS Nikkor, Kodak Portra 160. I ran into NYC icon Louis Mendes, a photographer well known for his old school Speed Graphic camera and sharp retro outfits. Lou takes unique Polaroid portraits and has made a living and a legend out of it. I’ve bumped into Mr. Mendes a few times over the years and he has always been a willing a gracious subject for my cameras. Thanks Lou!

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“Bangkok Bride II” 2005. Olympus Stylus Epic, 35mm f/2.8, Kodak High Definition 400 film. Bangkok, Thailand.

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“Native New Yorker” 2015. Leica M4P, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M, Kodak T-Max 400 developed in D76. NYC is a melting pot of cultures. No matter where you come from, you can quickly transform into a New Yorker!




Some Film Images Part I

No dear friends and readers, I have not run out of Camera Legends to profile for you. However, from time to time, I’d like to put up some images I’ve taken over the years, if only to remind myself that I still love photography and also so that readers of this site can see that I actually DO use the gear profiled 🙂

Like many of you out there, I really love cameras and lenses. But just as importantly, I love the equipment more if it helps me take a decent picture.

The photos below are a random sampling of the gear and the photos I’ve taken with them. Some of the cameras used to take these shots have been profiled. Some are previews of possible future postings.

They are not masterworks or anything. Many are from my attempts to learn or test equipment. Most were taken for just the pure joy of photography.

I thank you for taking a look. And not to worry, I have more great gear to profile and review for you coming soon 🙂

Note: Most of these images were posted elsewhere on the web years ago, long before I knew anything about WordPress. As such, some were resized to dimensions much smaller than I’d like to show you, but as I cannot find the originals at this time, this is what I can post. Sorry about that.

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“Mom in DC” 1984. Kodak Disc Camera. This image represents one of my earliest attempts at photography, at least the ones I could find. Shot with the long defunct and defiled Kodak Disc Camera, a camera that was bashed by critics and consumers alike. However, I have to say, I really loved that camera and this image brings back a lot of memories.

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“Ghetto Blaster” 1985. Minolta X-700, 50mm f/1.7 MD lens. My brother and father with our Cutlass Supreme which we called the “Ghetto-Blaster” with its missing hubcap 🙂 Thirty one years in time, but I’ll be darned if that golden light on the print doesn’t still look as golden as the day I took this shot.




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“Bangkok Bride” 2005. Olympus Stylus Epic, 35mm f/2.8, Kodak High Definition 400 film. Shot in Bangkok, Thailand.

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“Holy Petal” 1995. Contax G1, 28mm f/2.8 Zeiss Biogon, Fujichrome Velvia. Taken at a temple in Bangkok, Thailand.

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“Portrait Of An Addict” 1997. Olympus OM-1, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8, Kodak Tri-X. An attempt to self document one man’s horrible addiction to cigarettes. This photo was accepted to Flickr’s “Film Is Not Dead It Just Smells Funny” group, which is quite a selective bunch so I was honored by their acceptance of this pic.

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“Mannequin Fantasy” 2006. Ricoh GR1, Fujicolor Press 800.

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“Lots Of Love” 2008. Leica R8, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Ilford XP2. I was honored that this image was profiled on Leica’s LFI “Analogue Masters” Gallery a few years ago.

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“Rainy Day Blues” 2009. Leica CL, Canon 50mm f/1.2 LTM, Kodak Tri-X 400 developed in HC-110. I was sloppy and something went wrong with the development and I got the blues after seeing the ‘damaged’ roll . But since photography is such a subjective, sometimes emotional thing, I developed a liking for the look of some of the ‘ruined’ images.

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“Masked Shooter” 2008. Contax RX, Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 lens. The man with the clandestine figure, the Masked Shooter, has probably shot nearly a thousand cameras 🙂




The Minox DCC 5.1

The Minox DCC 5.1mp digital camera from Minox. Let’s make no mistake about it, this is a toy camera and I only got one for my collection as it is cute as a button 🙂

The Minox DCC 5.1 is a 5.1 megapixel camera introduced in 2010 by the famous miniature camera maker Minox.

While it obviously mimics the looks of the legendary Leica M3, an M3 it is not. This is pretty much a toy camera, pure and simple.

The camera is clunky to use and the image quality is quite bad. You can forget about shooting it at night or in low light unless you have the accessory flash. Over the years, I have been known to take cameras to their low light limits, and if the camera is half way decent, I can get something usable out of it. But this one, for low light shots, I said “Fuggedaboutit” 🙂

Sure, you might if you are so inclined, get some cool effects with it, but it’s a novelty, not an everyday camera.

There will be no “official” reviews on this one. In fact, everything you need to know about it, I just wrote it in the sentences above.

I got it for under $50 and it’s purely for my collection as a camera buff. One thing I will say is that, just like the model holding the camera, it is cute as a button…which is why I got it 🙂

As bad as these cameras are as a “camera” they still have their appeal as collectibles and in that respect, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these “Leica” Minoxes end up as an interesting footnote in the Camera Legend of Minox.

Although the Minoxx DCC 5.1 is an older model, there are a couple of other similar cameras Minox put out, including the last 14mp model. Although I still think they are very much toy cameras, if you’re interested you may be able to get one at a good deal on here for Minox cameras.

 

The Sony A7R: Is It The Ultimate?

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“The Dream” 2015. The Sony A7R, when introduced in 2013, represented the pinnacle in digital camera technology. Seen here with the Canon 50mm f/0.95, it is a “Dream” combo for me. I played around with some “Pop Art” type settings for this shot 🙂

The Sony A7R is a 36.4 megapixel mirrorless digital camera introduced (along with the 24mp A7) by Sony in 2013.

Now think about it…a mirrorless camera with a whopping 36.4 megapixels on a full-frame sensor. You might call the A7R an instant Camera Legend!

Note: With the exception of the first two photos, I have included some larger than usual photos especially for this camera. You may have to double click on the photos to see them at their intended sizes.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

While the camera looks like a miniature DSLR, it is indeed NOT a single lens reflex. Instead, it is a mirrorless camera that does not rely on a reflex mirror as in traditional SLR cameras.

You have the option of using the back LCD, as in all digital cameras, or the built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF). The EVF has a resolution of 2.4 megapixels and is one of the best I’ve ever seen.

The camera is small, but feels good in the hand. Solid, light but with a nice heft to it. The right hand grip feels comfy and secure to me, but might not for someone with larger hands.

When I first handled the camera at the PhotoPlus show in NYC in 2013, my impression was that the camera looked and felt a lot like my Olympus OM-D EM-5, only stronger and not as light as the OM-D. I would say it is like the EM-5 ‘grown up’ 🙂

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“Pucker Up” 2014. Sony A7R, Voightlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton Aspherical, first version. Lipstick, ear-rings, kids jewelry…growing up way too fast! 🙂

It is not the prettiest camera in the world, but not the ugliest either. It feels like a ‘machine’ or a computer with a camera that Sony put together, in essence that’s what it is, but I kinda like that. And this machine is made for image making. It is not here to win any beauty contests, it is here to work. And it is an excellent worker.

CONTROLS AND FEATURES

The controls are well laid out with the mode dial, on/off dial, and exposure compensation wheel at the top. The inclusion of the “Fn” or function button on the back makes it easier to access key features such as ISO, drive mode, flash, focus, etc, etc. This is certainly a lot better than some of the lower end NEX cameras I have used where you have to use the scrolling virtual menu to access these features.

The menus are typical Sony and any NEX user will be familiar with most of it. You can customize this camera to do a lot of things, but I suggest you read the manual to have it do what you want.

As mentioned earlier, the EVF is wonderful, amazing really. I was always an old-school optical viewfinder guy, but the EVF on the A7R has won me over. Combined with the focus peaking, I have been able to get sharp shots in situations where it would almost be impossible. It’s that good.

There’s a lot more features to this camera than I care to write about. All I can say is that you can do almost anything you want with it 🙂

AUTOFOCUS

I can’t say much about the AF because I have mainly used manual legacy glass, i.e., Leica M, Olympus OM, Nikkors, etc, with this camera.

I did use a kit lens from the cheap Sony A3000 on the A7R and it focused fast and sure. Note that if using AF lenses from the APS-C NEX series, the A7R automatically switches to its 1.5x crop mode at a still respectable 15.4 megapixel resolution.

The two AF primes most users rave about when using the A7R/A7 series are the Sony made Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 FE and the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 FE Sonnar lenses. I have yet to really desire these, due to the lack of funds, and my simply having no problems getting sharp shots with my legacy glass. One day I hope to get around to one of these fine AF Zeiss lenses, and the 55mm f/1.8 is the one I’d get first.

MANUAL FOCUS

As mentioned, I have been using the A7R almost exclusively with legacy glass. This is the best camera I have used for this purpose.

I set the focus peaking to red, mid level, and just focus away. Focus peaking allows for the camera to highlight (in red, yellow, or white) the edges of your subject when the camera determines that you’re in the focus zone. Sometimes, you may have situations where you can’t really get a good ‘peaking’ but the EVF is clear enough where I can make the focus most of the time.

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“Twilight” 2014. Sony A7R, Canon 50mm f/0.95 “Dream Lens” at wide open, ISO 800. Please click on the photo for a much larger and better view.

Focus peaking is easy to use and a very effective tool for using manual focus lenses on your camera. As mentioned earlier, the implementation on the A7R is one of the best I have used. It makes you wonder how we took all those nice photos on film SLR’s all those years without it 🙂

Don’t get me wrong. You’d probably still get a better hit rate with the autofocus 55mm f/1.5 FE, for example, but I’ll be darned if don’t tell you how pleasantly surprised I was to see how well I could focus my old lenses.

DO I NEED 36 MEGAPIXELS?

This is probably one of the main questions people have when deciding whether or not to buy the A7R. For some, it is the reason to stay away. For others, it’s reason enough to sway them to give in to their G.A.S. “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” 🙂

I’ve been using this camera for almost a year, got it last May, 2014. Here’s my take on this…

Probably 99% of the time, 99% of us won’t need 36 megapixels. We get the A7R because we WANT it. There I said it 🙂

Back in 2004 and 2005, when we had 5 megapixel and 8 megapixel cameras ruling the digital camera world, I obsessively printed up 13×19 and 20×30 prints from cameras like the Nikon D1X and Canon EOS 20D and the results looked great. Even a 13×19 from a 4mp D2H looked pretty awesome.

It may seem silly now, but you have to remember in 2004 and 2005, this digital stuff was still a relatively new game. With each increase in megapixels, we were ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ and going bonkers with the latest and greatest. Today, 20+ megapixels don’t even make eyes blink anymore. Maybe some realized that after 10 megapixels, it was “good enough.”

So since printing billboards with an A7R is no problem, anything printed smaller will be a piece of cake for this camera.

Initially I did not intend to get the A7R, partially due to its price and partially because I didn’t need 36 megapixels for what I do. I do mostly street and portraits. I’ve done weddings and had a few shots published in a magazine, but professional photography is not my thing. Like many of you, photography is my passion and I prefer to keep it that way.

Anyway, I ended up with the A7R about half a year into its introduction because I was able to get one brand new through a friend for $500 less than the store prices. I can’t resist a bargain, so the savings were enough to push me over. Of course, I had to get rid of some cherished items to come up with the cash 🙂

Besides saving $500, I thought the A7R would be the ultimate solution for my legacy lenses. And indeed, the A7R has really turned out to be that camera.

Here’s the best excuse you need for wanting those 36.4 megapixels: If you come across that once in a lifetime shot, and assuming you actually get the shot, you will have the peace of mind in knowing you took it with your best camera. Simple as that. If in that dream world, MOMA wanted an exhibition print of your shot, they can have it with the A7R, again assuming you got the shot. Worst case (and more likely for me) scenario, you have some beautiful large prints in your home 🙂

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“Quadpods” 2014. Sony A7R, Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 Aspherical, ISO 100. Check the image below for a 100% crop of this image.

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A 100% crop of the image above. The A7R provided excellent resolution with the classic Canon FD 55mm f/1.2 Aspherical lens, but also reveals some chromatic aberration from this classic aspherical lens as well. You’d probably never spot it on prints up to 13×19 and even if you did, would it be a problem? 🙂

PERFORMANCE

The A7R has really impressed me with its results. When the Nikon D800/D800E came out in 2012, I read so many things about how 36 megapixels would require “super” photo techniques, tripods, the best lenses or otherwise you’d end up with blurry useless shots. Ten years ago, they said the same thing about ten megapixels so I took that with a grain of salt.

While it is true that if you used those “super” photo techniques, you could get the best out of the A7R, it is NOT necessary to get consistent sharp results out of the A7R. They may not always be “tack” sharp, but unless you’re shooting landscape exhibits or advertising campaigns, it should be sharp enough.

I do a lot of night and low light shots. I’ve always kept the camera in Auto ISO and it’s one of the few cameras that really does the job at this setting. I only adjust manual ISO if I specifically want ISO 100-400 or anything above ISO 800. With fast lenses and in low light, the A7R tended to choose the lowest ISO values it could get away with, thus providing better quality images with these lenses.

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“STOMP” 2015. Sony A7R, Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton Aspherical, first version at ISO 320. I actually shot this out of a moving car, pre-focused and a little off on the focus plus car movement, but I still like it. Driving by shooting can yield interesting results, but I do not endorse it 🙂

I generally turn off the noise reduction on my cameras, but with the A7R I keep the noise reduction at its “Normal” default and it does a nice job with ISO’s as high as 6400 providing a good balance between detail and noise. I only use RAW on this camera if there is difficult lighting or if I have the camera on a tripod. Otherwise, the “Fine” or “Extra Fine” jpegs are good enough for me.

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“Lobster Box” 2015. Sony A7R, Canon 50mm f/0.95, ISO 100. As mentioned in the article, the Sony A7R in Auto ISO mode chooses the lowest ISO values possible with fast lenses in low light to provide better image quality.

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“Flying High” 2015. Sony A7R, Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton Aspherical, first version at ISO 100. First day out in the park and swinging higher than I’d ever seen 🙂

Many of my legacy lenses cannot out resolve the A7R sensor. Even many modern lenses cannot out resolve the 36mp sensor. However, don’t let that dissuade you. Even my vintage Canon “Dream Lens” 50mm f/0.95, a lens known for its soft ‘dreamy’ quality wide open, is surprisingly nearly as sharp as a modern 50mm when stopped down to f/5.6 or so.

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“Bundle Up” 2014. Sony A7R, Canon 50mm f/0.95 “Dream Lens” at ISO 1000. Shot at around f/1.4 and processed to minimize the well known aberrations that have endeared this lens to its owners. Please click on the photo for a much larger and better view.

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“Autumn Leaves” 2014. Sony A7R, Canon 50mm f/0.95. Please click on the photo to see the details of the 100% crop inset. The crop is from the zipper of the jacket on Baby Z’s left side. At first it might seem ‘standard’ fare for a 50mm lens until you realize this is the Canon “Dream Lens” often thought of as soft. As you can see, it kept up amazing well with the A7R’s 36.4 megapixel sensor, better than I thought!

Just because you’re not using all those 36.4 megapixels doesn’t mean its wasted. You still get the benefit of being able to crop small sections of the files and still get usable pictures. And of course, you can print larger.

Wide lenses, such as my Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Heliar, do not work well on the A7R resulting in vignetting and color cast around the edges and blotchy spots. You could probably use correction software to fix these issues, although I haven’t tried.

The A7R sensor (same Sony sensor as in the Nikon D800/D800e) is also well known for its superb dynamic range. I can pull out great shadow detail in underexposed images and rarely ever get blown highlights with this camera.

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“Lifehouse” 2014. Sony A7R, Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Heliar M mount, ISO 100. Note the vignetting and color cast around the edges. Please click on the photo for a much larger and better view. Not pretty (except the couple, of course!), but it can be corrected to some degree with software. Or you can be happy and look at those issues as a “Natural Instagram” 🙂

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“Baby Beach” 2014. Sony A7R, Canon 50mm f/0.95 at wide open, ISO 100.

For the A7R, I generally stay in the 28mm range for wide angle where it works just fine.

The camera also does 1080P Full HD video though as mentioned in other articles, I’m not a video guy. My home videos from the A7R look nice though 🙂

BOTTOM LINE

I love this camera! It’s as simple as that. It has become my go to camera if I think I’m going to be shooting something worthwhile. It’s fantastic at low ISO’s and excellent at high ISO settings.

If I were doing it all over again today, for the same money, I’d probably get the A7II with its 5 axis stabilizer, but I haven’t really needed image stabilization because I equalize the A7R’s lack of IS by using fast lenses.

If shopping for the A7R, the price for new as of today (B&H) is $1898, and I’ve seen them sell used for as low as $1200 which is a screamin’ deal.

The A7R is a wonderful and very versatile camera, capable of opening up a whole new world of photographic fun and exploration for you. As mentioned earlier, the Sony A7R became an instant Camera Legend the moment it was introduced.

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“A New Zay” 2015. Sony A7R, Canon 50mm f/0.95 “Dream Lens.” It is indeed a new day with Baby Zay and the Sony A7R in the house! 🙂

Is it the “Ultimate?” Well, let’s say it didn’t stop me from wanting other cameras. It did however fill me with the thought that I didn’t need other cameras, I just want them because I love cameras! Anyway, this is not a camera I would use for events where fast AF and rapid fire is needed. It is kind of overkill for street work, which is what I love. However, at its best you can’t deny the image quality of the Sony A7R. It is among the best, and it is a Camera Legend standing high above its mirrorless peers.

Sony A7R

PROS: 36.4 Megapixels (you want it!); Possible Medium Format look in 35mm digital package; Superb EVF; Superb dynamic range; Excellent focus peaking for manual lenses; No AA filter for potentially sharper images; Lightweight, but sturdy; Great colors; Usable high ISO performance; Makes fantastic large prints

CONS: 36.4 Megapixels (you don’t really need it); The need for bigger memory cards, more processing power from your computer; Color cast and other issues with wide angle manual focus lenses; No AA filter, potential moire; Limited AF lens lineup; Battery life; Feels like it might be a bit fragile for long term durability, only time will tell I guess.

My first choice if buying an A7R today would be to check the competitive prices at Amazon through their affiliates. You can find some very competitive prices from the link below. I’d also recommend Adorama and B&H, never had a problem with either of these camera super stores. Buying from these dealers through these links helps to support this blog and helps me add to its content. It will cost you nothing and you’d be buying from the very best dealers. Thanks for your time reading this article and thanks for your support.

Amazon’s list of competitive stores selling the Sony A7R.