A stroll through the canals.

May 25, 2017

Just playing around with the Leica SL and 50mm Summilux-SL while on a stroll with my wife Emily.
(Fun Fact: I linked the photos directly from my wife’s site because I didn’t want to upload them twice.)

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50 Summilux-SL f/1.4 Review (first look)

October 18, 2016  |  Review


First let me start by saying there is a discrepancy as to if this is a final production sample or not. I was told by someone I trust at Leica Germany that this was in fact a final production sample. However, I was told by a Leica employee locally that it was not final because there were going to be firmware updates for both the lens and the body (which means final hardware w/firmware updates on the way). Now, I’ve also seen sample images from a friends 50SL (how he got one is beyond my knowledge, and a moot point). His copy of the lens actually seems worse from the sample photos he sent me (it has that infamous onion ring bokeh and is much more flat/dull). He claims it is definitely a final production sample as this is what he was told. His samples initially had me worried for the lens, but the copy I used is better from what I can tell. So who knows what’s going on! 

A hard truth: There is no bad lens in this day and age. These days, it’s more a question of if one lens is worth the price premium over another. Some M lenses are so gorgeous that I’d fight tooth and nail to defend their worth. But others leave me scratching my head as to why they cost so much. The cameras these lenses are put on are also a factor – I love the M240-P sensor and I don’t like the SL sensor. 

I wouldn’t defend the 50 Summilux-SL as savagely as I’d defend some M lenses. But I’ll write my take on it, show some images, and let you guys be the judge if it’s worth the price. But at $5,295 USD, I’d hope you’ll read a lot more reviews and look at a lot more samples then just mine.

First impressions: It’s big, but not as heavy as I’d have thought. It doesn’t balance well on the SL for an all-day-walk-around prime, but it’s headed in the right direction. The recently announced Summicron line should be just right on the SL body. I also tried to use the grip, but something about it just bothered me with the 50SL. If I had the 90-280 or even the 24-90 on instead, I might have liked using the grip.
iPhone shot to show size in hand: in-hand

Distortion control: This lens has barrel distortion. I would have thought for the size – and fact that Leica calls it a “reference lens” – the designers? engineers? wouldn’t have resorted to digital corrections. But they have. On the upside, if you don’t know what I’m talking about then you’ll probably never notice the barrel distortion. Mouse over the photo below to see it with and without Leica’s baked-in corrections.
(not as bad as the Q, but strange considering the focal length).
Unedited DNGs converted to jpg and resized:

An edited version for fun:

Another sample of distortion (no mouse over, you get the idea):
The Bends

Corner performance: I can’t really tell. Between the distortion control and my inability to shoot brick walls perfectly straight on, I just can’t tell. My take is that the corners are soft wide open and stay soft stopped down quite a bit (f/5.6). BUT I didn’t break out the tools and measure if the wall was straight and if the camera was perfectly parallel. I also am looking at the shots before digital corrections. Other testers might not do that.
For what it’s worth, I have a folder full of DNGs of various distances and f/stops. I can post this if someone is REALLY interested. (Nothing at infinity as I don’t know how one shoots infinity in a city centre, and I don’t feel like paying a cover charge to go to the MBS rooftop pool.)

Vignetting: It’s bad at f/1.4 but by f/2 it’s so-so. By f/4 it’s almost gone. This isn’t an issue for me personally, as I’m mostly shooting portraits and a bit of vignetting (the natural type) can actually aid in drawing the eye to my usually-central subject. 
@ f/1.4: f/1.4
@ f/2: f/2.0
@ f/2.8: f/2.8
@ f/4: f/4.0

Flare control: There’s some good and some bad. The good is that when you see flare, it’s pretty. The bad is that it can create a hazy veil much like the 75APO, leaching all the contrast out of your shot. But overall it wasn’t that easy to get this lens to flare uncontrollably. 
Random flare samples:
vanity flare

Fringing: This is where things get a bit odd. I’m not entirely convinced that this lens doesn’t have CA. I see it sometimes, and in other instances I don’t when I should. My best guess is that it’s sometimes being corrected in camera. My attempt to undo this correction hasn’t had the results I thought it would, so let’s just say that this lens has CA but it’s controlled optically. Or it’s very well hidden digitally. I’ll let someone else figure it out.
Samples anyway:

Contrast: It’s a pretty contrasty lens in certain situations, but the elements have to be aligned and the sun has to be at the right angle and so on.. Overall it has a good amount of contrast in regular shooting conditions.

AF: I’m very sad to report that the AF is pretty terrible. If anyone has the 35 Summilux-TL you’ll understand what I mean. Just image that, but worse. It hunts unpredictably with static subjects and it has a hard time locking focus on moving subjects when I’m planted in a stationary position. It’s not as slow as the S-lenses, but it’s far less sure-footed. HOPEFULLY there will be an AF update for the SL-body as well as an AF update for this lens before launch. If Fuji can do it, I’m sure Leica can too. Leica if you’re reading this.. Update the AF before launch. Because as it stands it’s a very frustrating $5,000 lens. EDIT: I was told there would be a AF update before launch. I hope Leica can deliver on this.

Magic dust… Where did it all go? Can Leica kidnap the seven dwarves and get them to dig some more up? I haven’t seen M/R rendering from any of the SL lenses. At first I thought it was a prime vs zoom thing. But after playing with the 50SL, I really just think something’s missing. (Though in all fairness it could be my dislike for the SL sensor that is clouding my judgement.) Of course this is subjective – I just figured I’d add in my thoughts. And before anyone asks how I can tell from a short period of time. It’s simple, I know what to look for. Also, I go out and shoot exactly the way I’d shoot for work/play and I judge based on prior experience. Maybe you look for different things in lenses than I do, and that’s fine. Another honest possibility could be that I’m just so used to the rendering of the 50 Summicron-APO that I don’t really like anything else anymore. Not saying I don’t like the 50SL, but I don’t like it as much as the 50APO. 

A few minor disappointments that make the lens slightly less enjoyable are:

The minimum focusing distance is really quite far. For a walk around lens I would have liked to have had a slightly closer minimum focus. It’s hard to take quirky shots of little pets and such. Maybe this is digitally limited by Leica for distortion purposes, maybe one has nothing to do with the other. Maybe it feels more like a 45mm to me, I’m not quite sure what’s going on.

I also find the lack of a focusing scale to be inconvenient. I know it’s on camera, but I just like knowing I’ve hit the closest distance via feel/sight/touch. TBH I don’t know why the manual focus ring is even on the lens. It’s so bad in use I’d have preferred they just left it out and if whatever they left out made the lens smaller, which would have been a bonus.

Overall I’m not unhappy having played with the 50 Summilux-SL a couple of times. I’m just unhappy that Leica expects us to pay so much for it. It’s better then the Sigma 50mm ART lens but it’s worse then the 55mm Otus lens. Wait. Let me rephrase that: IMHO it’s not optically as excellent as the Otus 55/1.4, so I can’t fathom why it’s big and expensive.

Will I buy this lens? Possibly, as there really isn’t an ideal alternative if I want to continue using the SL (I’m not a fan of zooms, and I can RF my M faster the I can EVF-MF my SL). Should I wait and see if the 37/75 cron lenses are better performers.. Probably. Will I wait, probably not ;)

Gallery (Random edited images):





































35 Summilux-T thoughts..

April 5, 2016  |  Random

The good news is the T system isn’t dead.

The bad news is it’s still over priced.

As far as APS-C lenses go, the 35 Summilux-T isn’t bad. And if I actually owned a T, I would seriously consider this lens. But with the soon-to-be-released S-adapter for the SL I’d rather just toss on one of my S-lenses. I’d have considered purchasing the T lens for the SL if it had faster AF, a more interesting rendering and a cheaper price.

I know Leica isn’t cheap and I’m no stranger to expensive glass, but I believe you should get what you pay for. And at $2,400 USD (at the time of writing this) I’d have expected the lens to have had more character, or some other magical spark that distinguished it from the Sony/Zeiss/Fuji APS-C lenses out there.

Here are a few quick shots wide open on the SL:
(My wife wasn’t with me on that particular outing, so I had to ask a nice gentleman if I could take his portrait)




Haw Par Villa (Testing the new Leica SL)

December 1, 2015  |  Walks

I’ve frequently driven by Haw Par Villa on my way to various client meetings, the wholesale market…even when satisfying late night durian cravings. But in the 10 years I’ve known about its existence, I’ve not once wandered in.

Today however, I had a reason.

I wanted to test out the new Leica SL and the Vario-Elmar-SL 24-90/2.8-4-ASPH. I also wanted to see how my prized lens The Legendary Summicron-APO 50/2 fared when mounted onto the SL via an adapter.

The plan was simple: walk through the theme park until I reached the end, then switch lenses and walk back to the entrance.

I managed to walk to the end of the park leisurely with the zoom attached, but ten minutes into switching lenses and retracing my steps, it started to pour with rain. And not just any rain – the type of rain that causes flash floods which sweep people away.

Knowing my SL was waterproof I decided to keep shooting. The problem was that I had to switch back to the zoom lens as the M lenses do not share the same weather resistance that the new line of SL lenses boast.

So much for the plan. Most of the images seen below were taken with the Vario-Elmar-SL. A few of them were taken with the 50APO. Can you tell which are which?

Despite almost drowning, I had a fun time at what I like to call “The Creepiest Theme Park on Earth” (see images). I hear Haw Par Villa was messed up in its heyday, but it’s even worse now that it’s fallen into disrepair.

Oh, and as for the weather sealing on the camera…well let’s just say it’s more water resistant than I am.

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Leica S Typ-007 (S-007)

August 28, 2015  |  Review

For the record my priorities may be different from your own. What I touch on in this “review” is important to me and the way I shoot. It may or may not be significant for your style of shooting. I’m not going to write about all the little buttons and functions. Just the stuff that was on my mind, the stuff that matters to me and affects my ability to work fluidly with the camera.

Overall responsiveness – The first thing I noticed. The shutter is snappy, and the blackout time is quick and consistent. It doesn’t hesitate it just fires and is ready for the next shot. I have the camera set to MF mode. I focus with the back button. I have tried the continuous shooting mode (which was VERY FAST), but ended up using single shot mode. The image preview time is slower than I’d have liked, though twice as fast as with the S-006. Zooming in and out for 100% previews is as fast as one would need. There is a quick startup/wakeup delay. Nothing that bothers me if I pre-press the shutter before lifting the camera up to my eye. Something I do with the M-P and S-006 out of habit. For those of you who have had the M9 and moved up to the M240, it’s much the same feeling speed wise. Though more like the M-P (which I find faster than the M240) but with a snappier shutter.


AF speed – Tricky to accurately explain. It’s almost 3x faster than the S-006. The AF performance is close to most mirrorless cameras in speed. Here’s the tricky part, it seems as if the AF is to quick! Sometimes it misses the mark causing it hunt back and forth a bit before it locks on. Thus the S-006 ends up being faster. Slow and steady, but doesn’t miss it’s mark. This doesn’t happen in anything but low or tricky light. And it happened FAR less with the 35S than with the 100S. My 100S upgraded itself the second I plugged it into the S-007, and the 100S works well on my S-006 (so it’s not the lens). Leica isn’t alone, other AF systems from the big manufactures suffer this as well.
I also tested the camera in backlit situations, locking focus more consistently than most mirrorless bodies. On par with the S-006 in this respect (yes the S-006 backlit AF is better than the Sony mirrorless cameras).
Keeping in mind the lenses are big, elements heavy, spaced apart. Naturally the AF will be considerably slower than other systems moving from min to infinite focus. In real world use I find my lens not having to travel so far between shots. But it’s good to note the limitations. Though the AF seems to move the lens faster even in these situations (more power going to the motor). Improved yes, but AF is still not fast enough to consistently nail focus on subjects moving towards the camera.


Colors – Highly subjective. Either you like the colors or you don’t. In my case I liked the M9 colors, but the short comings were enough to make me want to upgrade to the M240. Using the M240 for over two years I’ve grown accustom to the colors. Now I can’t get along with any other system. The S-006 was the first camera in a long time that I was blown away by, color wise. And due to the fact that it was semi-medium format, I was willing to put up with the short comings. Does the S-006 remind me of the M9? Yes, but not exactly. Perhaps due to the lenses, or maybe the profile Leica created for the S-006. And the DR of medium format plus higher pixel count. Somethings different. I mention all that because initially I thought that the M240 and the S-007 would share the same color profile. It does, and it doesn’t. I feel the S-007 has more flexibility in the DNG files, and the skin tones tend to be easier to “correct” (make appealing to myself). Still, there isn’t anything wrong with the M240 skin tones (in fact, I’m happy with them, and I think the M9/M240 color debate was blown WAY out of proportion). Though I do find that the M240 tends to lean a little to the yellow/green tint. And getting just the right amount of blues and reds into the skin tone can be difficult in certain lighting conditions. To be fair, good colors in general on an M9 in tricky lighting conditions can be difficult. So it’s a trade off. I feel the S-007 “suffers” from the same problem as the M240, but it’s a LOT easier to coax M9 skin tones out of the S-007.
Truthfully the S-007 colors are great. Familiar coming from the M240 as well as the S-006. One issue, the JPGs aren’t great (a similar complaint I have with my M240). It’s not important for me, but to some it might be. Maybe I should have fiddled more with the JPG settings and tried harder for a more appealing WB. But after quite a bit of fiddling, I gave up and went back to shooting. After all, I’m happy with how easy it is to edit the DNG files to my taste, and that’s all that really counts.


ISO – I love using strobes, but I do a LOT of natural light shooting. It seems I can never have clean enough ISO. I know ambient light can get ugly, but at least noise is one less worry. To shoot 3200 ISO and still be happy with the files, that’s a good feeling. The S-007 delivers on that good feeling. I will add there’s a catch. I find that the shadows tend to shift green when shooting at or above 3200 ISO. This is something that can be corrected easily enough and something that’ll probably be fixed in a firmware update, or through Adobe’s LR profiles. Problematic for the JPG files, unfortunately. To clarify it’s similar to an M240 at ISO 200 pushed 4 stops in LR. I’m not bothered by it. By the time I’m using 3200 ISO, light is crappy anyway, so I’m doing a lot to salvage the photo. ISO 800 is great, and 1600 ISO is perfectly useable for most situations. I’m also happy with 3200 ISO if I tweak the colors a bit in LR. A clear 2 stop – debatably 3 stop advantage over the S-006.


Odd Quirks – Leica’s constant reinvention of the wheel. In this case literally the shutter wheel… It doesn’t have numbers on it. The wheel will spin and spin and digitally the shutter will change. A quick look at the shutter dial will tell you nothing. No more shutter by feel. And Germany’s reason, now you use the shutter dial to zoom in and out of your images. Genius right? No, it was fine before. All I want to do is check sharpness at 100% and be done with it, why zoom in stages? I’d have much preferred to have the hard stops built into the dial. Personal preference though, as I know some of you will love/enjoy this feature.. It’s so DSLR.
I was going to write a few more minor cons and some pros. But really, it’s nitpicking, and honestly I love the simplistic controls. Another reviewer mentioned his 645Z has 26 buttons. Screw that, I hate buttons. I really only need access to the exposure triangle and I’m set. Though WB and other features are nice to have at your finger tips (and the 4 buttons on the back, and 1 on the front are still customisable, which allows me to set a few other things that are nice to have at your finger tips). No button labels, fine with me. I get use to gadgets very quickly (video game generation). And owning a S-006 helped.


Video – So not important to me. I did test it out. Jello/rolling shutter.. Bad both in HD and 4K. The video I did take was really crisp and beautiful for the 3 seconds I could hold the camera still with my wife in sharp focus.. After that you need to have a full production team backing you. My videos were mostly a shaky mess :D AMAZING though, I could see them being really beautiful if done well. These S-lenses seem stellar for video. But I still think the 50APO is the best video lens I’ve ever had the satisfaction of using for still photography :D


Would I recommend this camera?

If you were thinking of upgrading from the S-006 to the S-007 would I recommend you do so?
Honestly, depends on your needs. The S-006 is still amazing, it didn’t get worse just because the S-007 came along. Actually it got better if you consider the price of them now. Side by side the S-007 feels a LOT more like a DSLR than the S-006 does. In my opinion, I’d say that the S-007 is a DSLR, no question. I’ll be calling it that from now on. The DSLR with the best image quality in the world. The S-006 is the MFDCB that has the best image quality in the world – and sorta feels like a DSLR.






All images in the S-007 Review were taken with the 100mm Summicron-S @ f/2 (the best way to torture test the AF system).