Review: Leica M Monochrom

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It often seems that Leica M cameras could divide a nation: either you fall madly in love with them or you simply don’t understand the hype. Leica took that controversy to the next level when they released the Leica M Monochrom in May of last year. Leica took an already exotic and fascinating camera and placed a sensor in it that is more unique than anything else on the market: it only captures black & white. Some love the idea, some don’t get it. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.

Please check out my First Impressions post after shooting with the camera for only a few hours

 

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Panasonic’s New Sensor Technology Does Away with Color Filter, Gains One Stop Sensitivity

panasonic-GH31

Panasonic just published a press release in which the company states that it has patented a new sensor technology that effectively gains a stop of light sensitivity by doing away with the color filter. The idea is not new–in the past, people had their cameras modified to be monochrome only by taking away the color filter array. The same has been done with the Leica M Monochrom, which effectively boosted its base ISO from 160 to 320. However, Panasonic’s new technology doesn’t leave the camera ‘color blind’. Quite on the contrary.

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UPDATED: Cosina Voigtländer Unveil Two New Fast Lenses for Micro Four Thirds and M-Mount

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Picture courtesy of DC Watch

The inventive people over at Cosina never stop working and thinking up new stuff, it seems. At CP+, the big Japanese photo show, the company just unveiled a new superfast lens for Micro Four Thirds, and another fast normal lens for M-mount. As always with Cosina, both lenses come totally unexpected, with no rumors about their future appearance spread through the interwebs beforehand. There also isn’t much information available yet, except for product pictures over at DC Watch. Of course you are curious now what these two new lenses are, right? Well, head past the break to find out!

UPDATE 02/01/13 — Officially announced in Germany, see below.

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First Impressions: Leica M Monochrom

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I’ve shot with Leica M cameras a handful of times and have fallen in love every single time. It’s such a unique process of shooting, and completely different than anything I’m used to. As a street photographer, shooting with a Leica M represents to many the most pure and organic shooting experience, and retains the classic feel and sensation of film while combining the convenience and ease of digital.

Last year, Leica upped the bar and released a handful of updates to their M lineup, including this $8,000 black and white digital rangefinder. This camera is built with the same familiar body as the M9 and M9-P, but the sensor is new, and is something entirely unique to anything else on the market.

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The Phoblographer Staff’s Favorite Lenses

Olympus Lens Collection

If you’re asked what your favorite lens is, how would you respond? Could you list one right away without hesitation and explain why it’s your favorite? It’s not always an easy thing to do (unless you’ve only got one lens I suppose) but it’s a question often asked of us here at The Phoblographer, so we’ve decided to share our opinions with all of you. Read on to hear from some of the staff.

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Analog Love: Using the Jupiter-8 50mm f2 Lens on the Leica CL

Felix Esser The Phoblographer Leica CL Jupiter-8

After selling my Leica M8 a while ago, there was a huge gap in my camera collection: physically and metaphysically. There was a gap in my shelf, there was a gap in my lineup but there also was a gap in my soul. Because let’s face it, a Leica is not a camera you buy with your head, but with your heart. So I decided to get a replacement for it and bought a CL body — the smallest and cheapest M-mount camera ever made. And what is the cheapest lens you can get for your Leica? Well, the Russian Jupiter-8 of course!

 

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What’s in the Bag? The Felix Esser Edition

Missing here: Panasonc G1 + Lumix 20/1.7 + Rokinon flash (as I used these to take the picture)

I’ve had my fair share of cameras, both digital and analog, in recent years. Which is both good and bad. Good, because I learned a lot about photography — both from the technical as well as the artistical standpoint –, and bad, because at times I found myself in a constant loop of buying and selling. I spent a lot of money on different pieces of equipment, just to sell it with loss afterwards. And while searching for that one, perfect, ultimate camera kit, I figured something out. It’s not the gear that makes you happy. It’s the pictures you take. So I made a rather bold decision, namely to sell my beloved Leica M8. Not because it didn’t take good pictures, or because I didn’t enjoy using, but because I figured that I didn’t need such an expensive piece of technology to take great pictures. Quite on the contrary, in fact. What, then, is in my bag now? Read on to find out!

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Confirmed: Cosina to Discontinue Zeiss Ikon Camera Bodies

Picture courtesy of Carl Zeiss AG

And another icon of film photography says goodbye. After recently announcing discontinuance of the SW and silver versions of the Zeiss Ikon 35mm rangefinder film camera, Cosina now allegedly discontinued also the black Zeiss Ikon body. At least that’s what Zeiss Rumors reports, quoting this tweet of a Japanese camera retailer. Cosina has thus far not posted an official disctontinuance note. However, a rangefinderforum.com user reports that the company confirmed the discontinuance of all Zeiss Ikon camera bodies via telephone.

The silver version of the Zeiss Ikon had already been discontinued earlier this year, as well as the viewfinderless SW body. The Zeiss Ikon M-mount rangefinder was introduced in 2006 as an alternative to Leica’s M bodies, and sported an aperture priority exposure system with shutter speeds up to 1/2000 sec. The camera was renowned for its build quality and exceptionally bright viewfinder, and was fully compatible with all M-mount lenses.

Zeiss Ikon camera bodies are still available at B&H Photo.

We are contacting Zeiss to find out more.

Editor’s Note: Confirmed, in a quick call to our Zeiss rep, the company told us that they made an announcement to their dealers this week.

Holiday 2012: Recommended Lenses for Micro Four Thirds

The Micro Four Thirds system has the biggest choice of lenses of all mirrorless systems so far.

The holiday season is just around the corner, so it’s time to think about the right gear for your holiday pictures. If you’re a Micro Four Thirds user, you’re in a lucky position, as we have seen a whole slew of new lenses for the system in this year — in addition to the great lenses we already had. So no matter whether you’re on the search for a lens to use yourself, or for one to give away to someone for Christmas — this guide will help you pick one (or two, or more) from the vastness of glass that is available for the system by now.

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Review: MS-Optical Sonnetar 50mm f1.1 for Leica M

The MS-Optical Sonnetar 50/1.1 on the Leica M8. The lens is surprisingly small for its focal length and speed.

The Sonnetar 50mm f1.1 for Leica M is the latest lens design by Mr. Miyazaki from Japan, the man who brought us the 35mm f3.5 and 28mm f4 “Perar” pancake lenses before. The Sonnetar is not a pancake, but still not large either considering its speed. Based on the classic Sonnar design by Zeiss, the Sonnetar manages to be fast and compact at the same time. As with all MS-Optical lenses, it is designed and assembled by only one person, which is why it comes in limited numbers only. I had the opportunity to take a closer look at a pre-production unit of this unique lens.

 

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Legendary Helios Lens Making Company and Plant Reopened?

Update: We found the website, but it is right now only in Russian; commrade.

We’re not sure how this one slipped under our noses, but our Multimedia Producer Thursten Kent was snooping around Pentax Forums to find that Helios has allegedly reopened shop and is once again producing lenses. For those of you that are unaware, the company produced a couple of Zeiss and Leica knockoff lenses a very long time ago and went nearly defunct and unknown for a while until mirrorless interchangeable lens digital cameras came onto the scene. With their ability to adapt nearly any lens onto the mount, enthusiasts found themselves scouring eBay and Craigslist for some cool finds and rare treasures.

When the Panasonic GH1 came on board, so too did many cinematographers. The problem was finding good, small cinema lenses for the system. Luckily for many videographers, Helios had made them a long time ago and the results are really quite beautiful. I’ve played with the lenses as former co-workers of mine and friends all own them. They’re quirky, but they get the job done.

Today, the lenses can easily be found on eBay and purchased for anywhere from dirt cheap to nearly $1,000.

We’ve tried to find an official Helios website online, but couldn’t as of publishing this story.

SLR Magic to Discontinue Development of M-Mount Lenses

Andrew Chan from SLR Magic at photokina 2012, holding a Fuji X-Pro 1 equipped with their new 35mm T0.95 cine lens.

With much regret, we recently learned of the news that SLR Magic, the company that brought us the 12mm f1.6 HyperPrime for Micro Four Thirds and the 50mm T0.95 HyperPrime for Leica M, will discontinue all development of M-mount lenses. In an official press release, the company states that this decision has been made due to a lot of negative feedback on the 50mm T0.95 HypePrime for Leica M.

 

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Photokina 2012 Report — Part 6: SLR Magic and the Rest

First a Ferrari, and now beer. What on earth does this have to do with photokina? Well, every day at 3 p.m. the guys from Peak Design (read more on their awesome products below) were giving out Freibier. This was their PR strategy, and you can bet it was well received!

This is part six of our photokina 2012 report, with a main focus on SLR Magic, the small lens maker from Hong Kong that has come up with a lot of amazing products in the last two years. Beside an exhaustive report on SLR Magic’s new lenses, the following companies and/or products are featured in this post: Alpa, B.I.G. Photo, Fotoman, the Impossible Project, Lensbaby, Peak Design, the Plustek 120 film scanner, Rollei, and SanDisk.

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Photokina 2012 Report — Part 5: Leica, Hasselblad and Voigtländer

Wait, what? A Ferrari? What does this have to do with photokina? Well, nothing, except that Hasselblad had one at their stand. Yup, a real, proper Ferrari.

First off, let me apologize. This post was meant to be up yesterday. However, since my laptop decided to break down, I couldn’t work on it. So it comes one day late. So without further ado, this is part five of or photokina 2012 report. Featured today: the new Leica M and Leica M-E, the Leica X2 Paul Smith edition and à la carte, the Hasselblad Lunatic Lunar and the Voigtländer 21mm f1.8 lens for Leica M.

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Leica Brings New Updates Almost All Across the Board: Makes Us Drool

 

Photokina has already brought us some interesting finds; but Leica took the cake and put some extra frosting on it today. The company has brought a slew of updates to their product lines bringing extremely ambitious changes and some very interesting and jaw dropping announcements.

Today we saw changes to the Leica M line, S series, X2 line, and their point and shoots. Grab a cup of coffee because there were a ton of new products.

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Voigtlander Announces New 21mm f1.8 Leica M Mount Lens

Voigtlander has announced their new 21mm f1.8 lens for M mount cameras. The company has always been known for creating beautiful glass but hasn’t been as prominent as Zeiss and Leica. Voigtlander is in fact a more affordable option, and this new lens isn’t the new exception.

The new lens features 13 elements in 11 groups with one Aspherical element. Plus it features 10 aperture blades and an all metal design: just like all their other lenses. The 21mm f1.8 also features a non-removable lens hood. Here are some more specs (after the jump) straight from the horses mouth.

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UPDATED: The Amazing Miyazaki-san Did It Again: Here Comes the MS-Optical Sonnetar 50/1.1 for Leica M

Image credit: Bellamy Hunt / Japan Camera Hunter

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, we stated that Miyazaki-san was from Tokyo. This is of course wrong — he actually lives and works in Honcho, Chiba. We apologize for the mistake.

A few days ago, the Leica world went abuzz when details of a new superfast 50mm lens made by the legendary Miyazaki-san from Chiba, Japan surfaced. After the supersmall 35mm f3.5 and 28mm f4 Perar lenses, this is his third M-mount lens creation which he — as always — designed and manufactured all on his own in his little workshop in Tokyo.

The 50mm f1.1 Sonnetar, technically a 51.7mm f1.163 lens, is based on the famous Sonnar design invented by Zeiss in the mid-twenties. Based on the basic Sonnar design, Miyazaki-san created a completely new lens design that not only features a superfast f1.1 initial aperture, but is also hardly larger than a contemporary Leica Summicron-M 35mm f2 lens.

The lens features multi-coated tantalum glass, a circular German-made 14-blade aperture mechanism and weighs in at only 190 grams (6.7 oz.) Additionally, the apeture ring turns stepless, offering extremely precise apeture control.  According to Bellamy Hunt, the lens has a speed-vs-sharpness sweet spot at around f1.6, being rather soft at f1.1 and getting gradually sharper from f2 onwards.

The first batch of this lens has alread sold out, but more are going to be made. The price will be around USD 1k. For more information, please visit japancamerahunter.com. If you can’t wait for the next batch of Sonnetar’s to be made, you can still get the equally fast and equally priced Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f1.1.

UPDATE: Dirk Rösler from Japan Exposures brought it to our attention that only the first batch of pre-orders from Japan Camera Hunter has sold out. He did not mention whether the lens will be available from Japan Exposures as well, but considering his good relations to Mr Miyazaki, we assume so. Make sure to check out his website for more information.

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Op ED: Three Reasons Why Lights Matter More To Me Than Camera Sensors

After running this website for two + years and testing camera after camera, I often get bored of just looking at pixels all day and every day. But since I started shooting, I’ve built up a collection of flashes and lights to use for various reasons. Modern day digital cameras and film scanning software are capable of so much that I’ve concluded that the only major selling points for any camera system now are the lenses and extra features that one can tack on.

But when you put lights into the picture, the whole scenario changes.

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The Phoblographer’s Guide to Affordable Film Rangefinder Cameras

Check them out: forum after forum will be plagued by people asking for affordable rangefinder cameras. Indeed, these cameras have always been surrounded in a certain mystique and many are curious about and yearn for the simplicity that comes with shooting one. Personally, I trained myself on a Leica CL, and the skills and style I developed during that period have stuck with me even into my DSLR shooting and now mirrorless shooting styles. In fact, they’ve even become apparent in my use of strobes.

In the end, once you train yourself or learn how to use a rangefinder, you’ll develop a special courage and learn new skills that will teach you to only become a better photographer. If you don’t want to break the bank while doing so, here are a list of affordable rangefinders to keep your eyes out for.

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