6 Months with the Leica APO Summicron-M 50mm

I’m a 50mm guy. For whatever reason, be it scientific or psychological, I just prefer shooting a 50mm over any other focal length. In my six or seven years of shooting Leica M bodies, I’ve owned pretty much all the modern Leica 50mm’s, a few of the classics and a few non-Leica brands.

APO Summicron-M 50mm, f/16, ISO 320

APO Summicron-M 50mm, f/16, ISO 320 (Click image to enlarge)

Until recently I thought that the Leica Summilux-M 50mm was without a doubt the best 50mm lens on the market. I’ve shot with it for four years and loved every minute of it. I’ve got to know the lens inside out and would have been happy shooting with it for the rest of my life.

However, when Leica announced the APO Summicron back in 2012 to much fanfare and exaltation, I decided to look into it. There were crazy claims flying about – some called it the best Leica lens ever made, some said it was even the best lens of all time, but it turned out I was going to have to wait a long time to find out how true these claims were.

Leitz Park, Wetzlar. 02.09.2015 Leica MM 246; APO Summicron-M 50mm 1/125sec; f/2; iso400

APO Summicron-M 50mm, f/2, ISO 400 (Click image to enlarge)

I put an order in for one with my local dealer and after waiting around six months, I started noticing articles on the internet pop up mentioning flare issues and that Leica were binning 9 out of 10 that they produced due to production complications. I really didn’t fancy forking out a fortune just to be a guinea pig, so I cancelled my order with my dealer and went back to being happy (more than happy) with my Summilux.

A few years went by and I just happened to be in the Leica Mayfair boutique in February and there were two APO’s in stock. I asked the shop manager if the flare and production issues had been sorted and he confirmed they had. The lens had actually dropped slightly in price as well and I decided to buy it there and then.

So now I’ve had the lens for a little over six months, shoot almost exclusively with it and thought it was about time I wrote up my findings.

APO Summicron-M 50mm, f/2, ISO 25000 (Click image to enlarge)

APO Summicron-M 50mm, f/2, ISO 25,000 (Click image to enlarge)

I know the claims out there. I’ve heard it called “technically perfect” and “the best render of any lens ever”, but rather than be sensational about it, I’m just going to simply state that it is the best lens I’ve ever used. Not just the best 50mm lens. Not even just the best full frame lens (I shoot S lenses too), but the best lens I’ve used period.

Ok, so that is a big claim, especially when it doesn’t render nearly as good as a APO-Summicron-S 120mm, but for a blend of reasons, it is the best lens I have ever used.

Here’s why…

  1. I shoot black and white and primarily on a Monochrome Typ 246. The APO is perfectly matched to this sensor. It has resolving capabilities superior to any other Leica M lens and suits the high resolution, Bayer filter-free Monochrom sensor perfectly.
  2. It has much more contrast than any other Leica M lens and therefor tricks the eye into thinking the image is sharper.
  3. It “is” optically sharper than any other Leica M lens due to the aspherical design and modern apochromatic correction. When I say “optically sharper”, I mean it’s “way” sharper.
  4. Leica have been accused recently of producing lenses that render too clinically. The APO renders classically on the Monochrome sensor and the grain at high ISO’s is so film-like it’s actually welcome. On the M240 colour sensor, the colour rendering is so correct that very little processing is required and of course it shows very little to no chromatic aberration.
  5. The unique sharpness of this lens wide open produces a level of subject separation that I’ve never experienced on any other lens in any other format. You will have heard people talking about Leica’s 3D image quality, the APO is like 4D!
  6. The thing I loved about the 50mm Summilux was it’s creamy bokeh. The APO is not quite as creamy, but it’s every bit as charming and you don’t need the extra stop that the Summilux has to achieve it. At f/2, the APO renders a lovely, clean, swirl free bokeh.
  7. The build quality is worth mentioning too as Leica have raised the bar with this lens. It feels solid and exact. Leica’s build quality on any lens has never been in question, but the APO just feels better. The built in hood is genius!
  8. It’s highly useable. This might seem a strange thing to say about a lens, but when you are shooting moving subjects such as people in the street, short focus ring travel is essential. The APO’s focus ring travel is small and precise. The lens is also short and light. At under 50mm in length and weighing in at only 300g, it is noticeably smaller and lighter than the Summilux.
    (Qualification: The most unusable lens I have ever shot with is the Noctilux.)

So for the reasons above, I’ve fallen in love with this lens and it’s never off my mount.

APO Summicron-M 50mm, f/4, ISO 320 (Click image to enlarge)

APO Summicron-M 50mm, f/4, ISO 320 (Click image to enlarge)

The last thing to talk about is price. This is an expensive lens. At the time of writing it is £5200 / $8000 / €7150. A lot of money.

However, if you’re in the market for this lens, you’ve probably looked at or owned a 50mm Noctilux, which is dearer and trust me, nowhere near as useable, as sharp or as portable as the APO. You may also have looked at the 50mm Summilux which at the time of writing is about half the price of the APO. Is the APO twice as good as the Summilux? No, it’s not, but consider the compactness of the lens, it’s awesome sharpness and it’s ability to separate subjects like no other lens in existence and the spend becomes more convincing.

APO Summicron-M 50mm, f/4, ISO 320 (Click image to enlarge)

APO Summicron-M 50mm, f/4, ISO 320 (Click image to enlarge)

Image quality is subjective and open to differing opinions, but to reinforce my experience with the APO I’ve included a few unprocessed comparison shots between the APO  and the Summilux below…

APO Summicron-M 50mm, f/2, ISO 2500 (Click image to enlarge)

APO Summicron-M 50mm, f/2, ISO 2500 (Click image to enlarge)

Summilux-M 50mm, f/1.4, ISO 2500 (Click image to enlarge)

Summilux-M 50mm, f/1.4, ISO 2500 (Click image to enlarge)

APO Summicron-M 50mm, f/8, ISO 25000 (Click image to enlarge)

APO Summicron-M 50mm, f/8, ISO 25,000 (Click image to enlarge)

Summilux-M 50mm, f/8, ISO 25000

Summilux-M 50mm, f/8, ISO 25,000 (Click image to enlarge)

If you decide the APO Summicron-M is your next 50mm lens, let me know if you’re as delighted with it as I am.

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An interview with Alex Coghe by Stephen Cosh

WARNING : THIS POST CONTAINS EXPLICIT IMAGES

Alex Coghe is a world renowned street photographer and I’ve followed his work for years, however it wasn’t until I interviewed him that I saw there was more to the man than his street work…

 

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Hi Alex, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background.

I am an Italian Photographer, and have been living in Mexico for 5 years. I’ve never just been a photographer, I was born a writer.

My profession is therefore a union of various activities: I am a photo-journalist. In the past I have written articles about Mexico for an Italian Magazine. I have also had experience as a political journalist but now I interview artists, especially photographers, for my blog and for The Leica Camera Blog.

I also have experience as a photo editor, a skill that I now apply to my publications. The most recent is The Street Photographer Notebook, a project that I’ve just started but that already has been greeted with much enthusiasm from street photographers around the world.

I consider all my professional entities equally important, I’ve never been just a photographer. I hold workshops, for example. And I still offer my journalist services.

I think Photography for me has been an evolution, an extension of my experience as a creative a writer. Poetry is an admission of loneliness and when I realised that I had no more time for this, my camera has become my pen. I will never abandon writing, but I’ve delegated the exploration of my soul to photography.

 

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Alex you are known throughout the digital world for your street photography. How and when did you get into street as a genre?

Well I actually began seriously in 200, but before that I had studied it alot. All the work done without a camera helped me a lot in terms of a solid base.

There were just a few resources on the internet then and books have been very important for me.

 

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What is it about street photography that compels you to get out and shoot?

The sense of self challenge. Street Photography is probably the most challenging genre and I consider it a permanent school for the photographer. I would advise all photographers to practice on the street because even a studio photographer will benefit from it.

For me Street Photography is an attitude, a state of mind. When I am shooting in the studio i still apply the approach of street photography.

But the main reason I shoot street and walk miles exploring places in the city si the feeling that at any moment I can be surprised and get as excited as a child, and the street is always and experience within an experience where you can meet new people and hear their stories.

To be a good street photographer you must have empathy for people. If you do not have a sincere interest in your subjects you will never get good photographs of them.

 

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Recently you have entered into erotic photography. Why this move and how does it link with your street work.

I’m just exploring another part of being a photographer.

I’m a commercial photographer and sometimes I’m not a contractually restricted from showing the images I made which is a pain. I respect the agreements with my clients, but I am pleased with some of this work ,especially my work for fashion brands. I would share but I can’t by agreement, so a year or so ago I launched the Mexicana Magazine project. It is a project where my followers finally can know another side of my work.

I don’t think I need to find a connection between my street work and erotic or fashion photography, but you can certainly see some elements typical of my vision as a street photographer inside my work with models.

I use the available light most of the time and my approach to this genre is the same as my approach to street, looking for that special candid moment. Yeah, erotica and fashion is “set” photography, but I am always looking for the “random moment”, that special, natural moment avoiding fake expressions and poses.

Mexicana Magazine is not just erotic photography, inside you will also find good documentary.

 

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Between street and erotic photography, which do you find the most creative and why?

Both are creative in a different way. I think creative ideas in erotic photography can be more interesting as I am not alone like I am in the street.

I do not direct my models. It is real creative work with them. We have equal power. They are in front of a camera and I’m behind it, but there is always a dialogue and a shared experience. I think erotica is like sex; it can never be one-way. The result would be bad.

 

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Can you tell us about the kit you use to shoot with, especially the Leica gear and how you go about processing your images?

I have been using a Leica X2 for two years now after delivering work on assignment from Leica Camera AG.

The Leica X2 is my main camera. I use it for street photography, photojournalism, fashion and erotica.

As a photographer I don’t need a lot of equipment or big cameras.

I have two ways to work with Leica X2. When on the streets I use the X2 like an analogue camera: LCD turned off, and shoot black and white JPEG without RAW (DNG), optical viewfinder and pre-set focus. When I am working with models I prefer to work with the electronic viewfinder, autofocus and of course I work in RAW.

In my opinion, this camera is always best with manual exposure.

For street photography I don’t edit the files that much. Sometimes I add contrast but that’s all.

For erotica and fashion, yeah I work the images with Adobe Lightroom where I will choose colour or black and white and of course I alter the mood and aesthetics to suit the shoot’s particular requirements.

 

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What is next for Alex Coghe?

I will continue to devote myself to the projects that I have… with two magazines there is a lot of work to do.

I need to prepare work for the agency I am collaborating with: it will be a classical photojournalistic piece, here in Mexico City.

I have other projects and ideas for 2015, but right now I can’t tell you about them. I will announce them when they are ready to go.

 

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Thanks Alex!

Alex Coghe website

A day with Summilux-M 50mm ASPH – Possibly the ‘best’ standard lens ever made!

An article written for The Leica Meet by Jip Van Kuijk

The lust

I have wanted a ’50 Lux. ASPH in my collection for quite a while, so after much deliberation, I finally bit the bullet. My finish of choice was the silver chrome version, which, if you’ve ever compared it to the black version, (almost) weighs a ton. It’s easy to see why tho; the black version is made of anodised aluminium, while the silver is build of solid chromed brass. It’s all brass, even the lens hood. While it’s heavy on the M (Typ 240), it’s truly a joy to use; it instantly felt right when handling it for the first time, especially the wonderful aperture and focus operation. This is a geek with a new toy. A very happy geek.

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The lens and the camera, M (Typ 240) with Summilux-M 50mm

First impression

On first use, I was astounded by the performance wide open (f/1.4) and slightly stopped down at f/2. Naturally, I didn’t expect anything else, but the reality is impressive. Some further testing showed that even at the closest focus ranges, the performance is very high indeed. This is clearly made possible by the floating element at the rear of the lens. Due to this element, the focus is smooth, yet slightly stiffer than other lenses. And gosh, is this lens ever beautiful on the chrome M.

Blossom blooming in winter

Blossom blooming in winter

Cadzand-Bad

After my initial play, I just couldn’t wait to test the lens further and get some more images with it. Since the weather was warm (18˚C, in fact – really warm for winter in the Netherlands) I decided on a lovely location, the beach at Cadzand-Bad. If you’ve never been, it’s a great place for some fresh air and landscape shots, even more so with the 50 Lux. I love the old style of the wooden breakwaters they have on the beach there, especially compared to the harsh modern concrete crosses they have elsewhere.  They made for a nice subject on a winter’s day, that while warm, was ultimately colder than anticipated. We can thank the strong sea breeze for that. As long as I didn’t stand in the shade for too long, the bright sun kept me warm enough.

Breakwaters and me, at Cadzand-Bad

Breakwaters and me, at Cadzand-Bad

The sea and wet sand was causing glare and reflection, so I made use of Leica’s Universal Polarizing filter. This not only cut them right down, but also acted as a two stop ND filter, allowing me to shoot in very bright light. An ideal combination of both effects in one handy package, like killing two birds with one stone, or like we say in the Netherlands, ‘Twee vliegen in een klap’. I was concerned that the filter might cause reflections of it’s own, but the lens performed really well, even against direct sunlight. I only managed to get the lens to flare in a single photo; pretty good if you ask me.

Footsteps on the beach, at Cadzand-Bad

Footsteps on the beach, at Cadzand-Bad

Just when I thought the lens couldn’t amaze me any more, the shots just kept coming. I didn’t shoot wide open a lot, as I wanted a deep depth of field on the beach, mainly shooting between f/4 and f/8 to maximise the depth captured. Returning to the handling again for a moment; the focus and aperture feel really good, better than the Summicron-M in my opinion. The focus tab is also a welcome change from the 50 Cron; I found it make focusing faster and easier, especially when focusing on people. For more precision, you can still use the knurled ring, so it’s the best of both worlds – you don’t have to use the tab if it’s not to your taste.

Against direct sunlight, used the pol filter to remove reflections on the wet sand behind the breakwaters. At Cadzand-Bad

Against direct sunlight, used the pol filter to remove reflections on the wet sand behind the breakwaters. At Cadzand-Bad

Golden hour

As the sun started to set itself into the sea, I made my way up into the Dunes to find new shots. I love the texture of the dune grass, it’s subtle colour against the sand gives a soft pastel palette when lit by the golden glow of the setting sun. Just add some great bokeh from the 50 Lux and you simply can’t go wrong! I was lucky enough to have a model on hand in the form of my companion Lorenz, who’d been along for the ride to shoot some long exposures with a 6 stop ND filter on his M8/50 Cron combo. As he was going through his shots of rocks in the sea, I took the opportunity to grab a few shots. Note the subtlety of the out of focus areas in front of him, and the creaminess of those behind.

Lorenz checking his results, at Cadzand-Bad dunes

Lorenz checking his results, at Cadzand-Bad dunes

Even wide open, the 50 Lux is sharp from edge to edge, it’s performance is sharp, with a subtle vignette, which I love. I feel it actually adds to the images and certainly shouldn’t be considered a negative point. The colour rendition of the lens is also very pleasing, but I haven’t really been able to compare it directly with other lenses. I’m planning a 50mm lens comparison in the near future, to show the different qualities of each lens for a variety of subjects. I have always been a big fan of the 50mm Summicron-M and it’s angle of view; now I think the 50 Lux will become my most used lens. It’s as if a whole new world of possibilities has opened up to me.

View from the Cadzand-Bad dunes

View from the Cadzand-Bad dunes

 

An article written for The Leica Meet by Jip Van Kuijk

Fast and Prime bags and Hamlyns of Colyton Introduction

Article by Jono Slack.

I saw some photos of Fast & Prime bags on the Leica Rumors website earlier this year, then, later on, there were some pictures on facebook. Fascinated I contacted Neal Simons of Fast and Prime. It turns out that he is based in Charmouth, Dorset, which is only a little way out of our well travelled route from Norfolk to Cornwall.

We arranged to drop in on Neal, he kindly took some time off to show us his immaculate workshop in Charmouth, and to take us around Hamlyns Tannery in Colyton, where he gets the leather for his bags and straps. Mr Parr kindly gave permission, and Neal showed us all around the Tannery – the staff were really polite and helpful, and the place is simply wonderful.

Neal Simons started life in Pittsburgh, moved to Miami, where he met his wife Lauren, an illustrator from London – He worked for several fashion houses before starting his own fashion business. Disillusioned with the industry he spent 5 years making the interiors for renovated classic cars before deciding that he wanted to create perfectly made utilitarian goods. Together with Squidgie Trimming, an experienced saddler, he started Fast & Prime. Neal and Lauren have now moved to Charmouth where their little girl goes to school near the beach.

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Fast and Prime Bags

We have a huge selection of wonderful bags available for use with our camera gear – from the traditional Canvas and Leather bags made by Billingham and Fogg (loosely based around traditional fisherman’s bags) to the higher tech materials from the likes of Lowepro and the more modern luxury bags from Artist & Artisan and others. These come in all shapes and sizes, from belt bags to rucksacks, and in all types of material, from leather to nylon.

Fast & Prime use only highest quality organic oak bark tanned hide – this is very resilient tough, and also fairly stiff. However, it’s also relatively light. In the bend areas (such as the flap on the Agent case) it will quickly become pliable with continued use.

To get the best understanding of exactly what Fast & Prime provide – have a look at their elegant and excellent website: www.fastandprime.com

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The Agent Case

Neal Simons has set out to make the perfect utilitarian bag. There are currently 3 sizes of the Agent case, the 66 (which basically takes one body); the 86 which is a little larger, and the 86J (Jumbo) which will take two Leica M bodies with lenses attached (and room for a small extra lens tucked under each body).

Each bag takes around 70 hours to make. The stitches are individually tied with beeswax coated linen threads (so that they don’t rot, and if one stitch breaks others stay intact). Neal has a very organised schedule for delivery, each bag is made to order and is stamped with the new owner’s initials: When ordering you’ll be given a delivery slot, the word from others is that although they may be several months in the future, the delivery is always reliable.

The image below shows the 86J with two Leica M(240) bodies, one with the 35 ‘lux FLE and the other with the 75 summicron. NB the straps visible in the iphone snap below belong to me, and were not made by Neal.

Tank Leica Half Case

Half cases aren’t really my thing (I like my cameras thin!) , but Neil also makes very sturdy half case called The Tank this is made of the same tanned hide as the Agent cases, (4-6mm thick Equestrian hide).

UHL Holster / Lens Case system

This is a well thought out system of holsters for cameras, and cases for lenses – I wasn’t able to photograph these in detail on my visit, but Neal has clearly described them on his website. (click on the title above to go straight there).

There are three types of Holster – one to go on a waist belt with 2 heavy duty belt loops, and another to go on on the shoulder strap with D rings – the third type is a hybrid with both belt loops and D rings.

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Straps Mono Strap and Lanyard – and the Kepler Harness

Fast & Prime make a number of different straps, both for shoulder and for waist to go with the Tank cases, UHL and Agent cases. They also make Mono straps and Lanyards – these are made out of a single piece of leather. The Kepler Harness is an ingenious piece of bondage which keeps your camera firmly available on your chest at all times ready to be lifted to your eye – Perfect for hiking or other activities when you may want quick access to your camera, but wish to keep your arms free.

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The Tannery at Hamlyns in Colyton is the last Traditional Oak Bark distillery in the UK. It has been a Tannery since Roman times. The actual tanning procedure has not changed a great deal in centuries, and it’s fascinating to see how the hides are produced.

Contrary to what you might suspect, the tannery doesn’t smell bad, some other tanning techniques (urine amongst them) can create a pretty singular aroma, but not Oak Bark Tanning.

A mixture of Oak Bark and Acorn cases from renewable sources are soaked to provide the tannin liquor in which the tanning will be done.

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The Hides arrive having been salted. They are then soaked in lime to loosen the hair, the hair is then scraped off

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Whilst still wet, the hides are cut to shape, washed and then put into the first of the tanning handler pits. They are moved from one pit to another once a week over a period of a year. Each pit contains a progressively stronger tanning liquor

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After Tanning has finished, and the hides are dried, they are ready to be dyed (if required) before delivery to the customer.

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It was a fascinating day, I can’t recommend enough that you visit the websites of Fast & Prime and for J & FJ Baker and Co.

I’d like to thank Neal Simons particularly for giving us the opportunity to visit his workshop and also the tannery.

For those who are interested, the photos were all taken with a Leica M camera, with either an f0.95 50mm Noctilux, or  an f1.4 35mm summilux FLE. Except the snap of two cameras in the 86J bag, taken with an iphone.

NB, This article is not a commercial venture, it was a fascinating day out for me, and it’s nice to have an opportunity to spread the word about an interesting and adventurous project. It isn’t a review either until I’ve actually used a bag I can only tell you what they look and feel like.

If you would like to see more images please click on the link: Gallery of Images from our Visit

Article by Jono Slack.

Testing Taifun . . . The new Leica T by Jono Slack

The Leica T with the 18-56 Vario-Elmar Asph and EVF (shot with M and 75 ‘cron APO)

The Leica T with the 18-56 Vario-Elmar Asph and EVF (shot with M and 75 ‘cron APO)

 

The Introduction

Taifun has been the code name for the Leica T. I got a first glimpse of the camera when visiting Solms in May 2013; it’s a pity everyone’s first sight of the camera couldn’t be by having it thrust into their hands, it feels wonderful; completely solid and really beautifully made, but most of all it just seems quite different from anything else. Looking at pictures brings to mind several other cameras, but in the flesh (aluminium) it’s much more reminiscent of picking up a unibody Apple computer for the first time.

I received a prototype camera to test in October 2013, just before heading off to Lanzarote for a week. Since then Taifun has been to Cornwall, the Lake District, Sauze d’Oulx, Monaco, France and Holland and been through several iterations of hardware and firmware.

Please note that this report is not meant to be a review. As a camera tester my loyalties are to Leica, and it’s better to make this clear at the outset. On the other hand I like to think of myself as an honest guy, and there is nothing here which I do not believe to be the case. If I was not happy with the camera I would not be writing this article .

My intention is to provide some entertainment for others (like myself) who like to read about new cameras when they’re released. Worth noting also that this site has absolutely no financial benefit – no adverts, and I’m not being paid by anyone for writing the article. I do have an ulterior motive, but of course you can ignore it (see the end of the article).

 

The Leica T with the 23mm Summicron Asph and no EVF (shot with M and 75 ‘cron APO)

The Leica T with the 23mm Summicron Asph and no EVF (shot with M and 75 ‘cron APO)

 

The Camera

The Camera is made from a single block of Aluminium (unibody) with a Toughened glass screen on the back and a plug in EVF. The battery fits into a hole in the base of the body and it’s cover completes the case. the only plastic on the exterior is the SD card cover on the right hand side at the back. It’s really hard to convey the feeling of solidity this body conveys. It’s also worth mentioning that after months of heavy use the camera body itself and the LCD screen show absolutely no scratches, scuffs or signs of wear.

The strap is made of rubber – very flexible and grippy. It fits to the camera with removable posts – the camera comes with a little steel dibber (rather like the one an iPhone uses to change the sim card). The camera has blank posts – I imagine that Leica will also sell a wrist strap, which you can put on either side of the camera leaving the other side with a blank post (and therefore smooth body).

I’ve added some quick snaps of the camera – hopefully this gives you an idea of the real feeling of quality. Industrial chic at it’s very best. Of course, you might not like the design – but it’s hard to criticise the way it has been executed. The Unibody itself is very light and obviously very tough.

Leica have finally done what others should have done years ago, the Leica T has 16Gb of internal memory – it’s not as fast as one might have liked, but it’s there . . . . that ‘No SD Card’ message is a thing of the past!

For the first few months I had the camera, I didn’t have a strap at all, so it was a case of ‘hold it or drop it’. I had imagined that the slippery aluminium would make this difficult, but in fact I never did drop it.

 

The Battery forms part of the body, with a tough lever, and a neat push required to remove the battery 2

The Battery forms part of the body, with a tough lever, and a neat push required to remove the battery 2

The Unibody itself - Leica T with Leica M75 APO Summicron

The Unibody itself – Leica T with Leica M75 APO Summicron

The Unibody itself - Leica T with Leica M75 APO Summicron from the back

The Unibody itself – Leica T with Leica M75 APO Summicron from the back

 

The EVF

Some may be disappointed that the camera doesn’t have a built in EVF; I presume that the decision was made to keep the size to the minimum.

However, as far as I can gather the new Leica built EVF uses the same panel as those in the recent Olympus, Fuji and Sony cameras – it’s very high resolution and has a decent refresh rate. It tilts, and has an excellent dioptre adjustment. It also has an entirely new method for attaching to the camera – with the connections being on the inside edge of the hot shoe, this means that it fits almost flush with the back of the camera, and that it doesn’t drop out easily. It also has an eye sensor, which is reasonably fast and makes using the camera with the EVF feel just like using one of the competitor cameras which have a built in EVF. Personally I think the rather industrial looking design fits in well with the rest of the camera.

 

Leica T with the 18-56 Vario-Elmar Asph and the EVF

Leica T with the 18-56 Vario-Elmar Asph and the EVF

 

The EVF & GPS

An added bonus of the EVF is the built in GPS signal. This really seems to work very well – fantastic on a skiing holiday!.

You can see how the images show up on the screenshot of the map.

 

Screenview of GPS Map

Screenview of GPS Map

 

The Lenses

There are two Auto Focus lenses launched with the camera:

Leica T 18-56mm f3.5 to f5.6 Vario Elmar Asph (28 – 85mm equivalent)

Leica T 23mm f2 Summicron Asph (35mm equivalent)

There will soon be more.

The lenses are made in Japan, not, I understand, by Panasonic. At any rate they are lovely lenses with metal bodies and buttery smooth operation. The manual focusing is focus by wire, but it’s really nicely damped and certainly feels like a traditional M focusing ring. I’ll talk about the image quality later on, but these lenses are lovely pieces of engineering and a pleasure to use. The lens hoods are metal and plastic.

 

Vario Elmar 12-56 Asph 65mm f5.2 3200 ISO 1:100th sec

Vario Elmar 12-56 Asph 65mm f5.2 3200 ISO 1:100th sec

 

The Interface

Well, forget about it looking reminiscent of the NEX-7 (or any other camera). This is different! I understand that the design and implementation is all in house at Leica. They’ve taken into account new tablet and phone interfaces and designed an icon based touch screen model. It takes a while to get used to it, but it does seem to be internally consistent, and it makes more and more sense as you use it.

 

Knobs, Dials and Buttons

Excluding the shutter release, on/off dial there are only two dials and one button! However there are three touch buttons on the right hand side of the LCD screen which remain the same in shooting mode, and are part of the basic interface.

 

The shutter release has a collar with On / Off / Flash – push it further than On and the popup flash pops up.

The video button starts video recording – and is also used for firmware updates (hold down the video button and switch on)

The Three touch screen buttons on the right hand side of the screen are as follows (starting from the top):

Mode button – touch it and then choose P / A / S / M / Scn

Camera button – touch it and you are shown your personal choice of options (there are up to nine options per screen) – you can have more than nine, but will need to scroll to find the lower ones. Removing options is as simple as dragging them to a bin. Adding options is as simple as dragging them from the Menu to the Camera icon.

Info button – this changes what you see on the rest of the LCD

 

The two dials function depending on the Mode chosen:

P mode – the left dial is user configurable (and sticky) the right dial is program shift

A mode – the left dial is user configurable (and sticky) the right dial is Aperture

S mode – the left dial is user configurable (and sticky) the right dial is Shutter Speed

M mode – the left dial is Aperture, the right dial Shutter speed

This varies slightly with M lenses attached via the adapter, more about that later.

Configuring the left hand dial is done simply by tapping it’s icon and choosing from a list.

I won’t go into much more detail about the interface – I’m sure there will be lots more information all over the internet. But it’s nothing like the complex and arcane systems on many other modern cameras – Leica have pared it down to basics. To me, the proof of it’s success is that you can put the camera down for a few weeks and then pick it up and use it again without getting confused.

 

Leica T 23mm Summicron at f3.5 ISO 200

Leica T 23mm Summicron at f3.5 ISO 200

 

The Other Lenses

The Leica T has an adapter for using Leica M lenses – there is a 1.5x conversion factor, so that a 50mm M lens will behave like a 75mm lens on the Leica T. There is an optical pass through for the 6 bit coding on Leica M lenses, so that the camera knows which lens is being used. I’m not sure whether Leica has applied lens corrections, what I am sure of is that the camera works really well with all the M lenses I’ve tried (even the tricky 28 summicron). When you attach an M lens the left hand dial defaults to focus magnification, which can be set at 3 times or 6 times. There is no focus peaking, but I’ve found focusing to be really straightforward.

The lack of AA filter really makes the most of your collection of M and R lenses. I had rather despaired of finding any non M camera which would do this. It seems that I needn’t have worried.

I’ve also tried a number of other lenses by stacking adapters. Leica R lenses work really well – I’ve especially enjoyed the 60mm macro elmarit and the 80-200 f4. I’m rather hoping Leica will make an R adapter with a read through for ROM lenses, but I have no knowledge about this. Certainly there is no reason that other companies might not make 3rd party adapters for different lenses.

Just as a little aside, the Leica T mount is noticeably larger than the Sony E mount (my casual measurement has the Sony at 46mm and the Leica T at 50mm). . . . I’ve not even discussed this with Leica, but I really see no reason why they couldn’t make a full frame camera later on with the same mount.

 

Leica M Noctilux Asph at f0.95

Leica M Noctilux Asph at f0.95

 

Leica 60mm f2.8 macro elmarit at f2.8 1:800th

Leica 60mm f2.8 macro elmarit at f2.8 1:800th

Leica 60mm f2.8 macro Elmarit at f2.8 1:125th

Leica 60mm f2.8 macro Elmarit at f2.8 1:125th

 

The Images

The Leica T has a 16mp APS-c sensor. I guess that it’s a Sony manufactured sensor similar to the XVario and various other cameras. At any rate, the results are excellent – sharp, contrasty and very detailed. The camera has no AA filter; together with this, the very wide lens mount and the excellent M adapter makes for a compelling body to shoot with legacy lenses.

Keeping to 16mp is an interesting decision, especially in a climate where the megapixel wars are raging again. However, it’s a relief to have files which load reasonably fast, and which are perfectly capable of being enlarged up to 20” and more.

The resulting files are excellent – Leica have done a grand job with the jpg engine, and you can easily configure how you like your jpgs cooked in the touch screen menu. Of course, it’s the DNG (RAW) files which really matter, and they don’t disappoint. I imagine the camera will be shipping with Lightroom 5, and the T images already work very well – lots of latitude for recovery of highlights and shadows and excellent colour and dynamic range. High ISO doesn’t disappoint, 3200 is excellent and 6400 is normally quite useable.

Great files are nothing without great lenses, and the first two Leica T lenses are excellent. The little 23mm Summicron Asph is sharp from corner to corner, right from f2 onwards. The kit lens is also an excellent performer – I’ve been using kit lenses from Sony, Olympus, Fuji and Panasonic over the last few months and the 18-56 Leica Vario-Elmar Asph f3.5/f5.6 does an excellent job. Of course, it would be nice if it ware a little faster, but on the other hand it’s a useful range (28-85) and it’s remarkably small.

 

Octopus in Lanzarote with the 23mm Asph Summicron f4.5

Octopus in Lanzarote with the 23mm Asph Summicron f4.5

 

The Comparison

Clearly it has to be done – I’ve spent the last months checking out all the top-notch mirrorless cameras – they all have their good points, and they all have their bad points. Certainly, if one is going to choose a camera based on a check list and a budget, then you would be unlikely to choose the Leica T.

If you’re interested, I’ve written a tongue in cheek article on the subject Gas and Mirrorless, where I finally came out in favour of the Olympus OMD E-M1 (but of course, I couldn’t mention the Leica T!) , You may find some of the images familiar – for much of the last 7 months I’ve been trekking around with a bag full of cameras! It’s been an interesting mission to make sure that nobody actually noticed the Leica T. I’ve spent considerable time with the Sony A7, (and the A7r) the Fuji X-T1 and the Olympus OMD E-M1, all of which are excellent cameras with excellent specifications. I’ve also spent a lot of time comparing images from the different cameras.

In terms of features, the Leica T is missing the built in EVF of the other cameras – on the other hand it does have GPS built into the plug in EVF. Added to which, with the new connection, and with a reasonably quick eye sensor the plug in EVF works similarly to those in the other cameras and has the obvious advantage of being tiltable (having said this the competitors all have tilting LCD screens which the Leica T is missing).

The Sony, Fuji and Olympus all have a huge number of features, whereas, in comparison the Leica T is much less bewildering; Of course, this is a double edged sword, from my point of view a camera has to be able to take the image, anything else I’d rather be without! Certainly, configuring and shooting with the Leica T is a much more straightforward matter than with either of the three competitors.

The OMD has built in Image Stabilisation, but the 2x crop factor makes it less useful with M and R lenses than the larger sensor of the Leica T. I think I’d say that with it’s pass through adapter and very quiet shutter the Leica T is probably the best of the bunch with respect to M and R Leica lenses. Unlike the competition it doesn’t have Focus Peaking, but it does have very good focus assist, I’ve found it really easy to focus – even with the Noctilux on the OUFRO!

I’m not going to go into a more detailed comparison. However, I will say that the images from the Leica are right up there with the best of the competition. I will also say that the delightful snick of the Leica shutter is in stark contrast to the clattering of the Sony A7r, and is quieter then either the Fuji or the Olympus. As you can see from the picture below, it also makes for a smaller package.

 

Rogue’s Gallery - Leica M, Sony A7, Leica T, Olympus OMD E-M1, Fujifilm X-T1

Rogue’s Gallery – Leica M, Sony A7, Leica T, Olympus OMD E-M1, Fujifilm X-T1

 

The Conclusion

Whatever else, the Leica T is an interesting and likeable camera. It takes excellent photos and is definitely a breath of fresh air in the face of the rapidly increasing menu systems of it’s competitors. It’s also rather ironic that whilst getting more complex, the Japanese companies seem to have been looking more retro.

I haven’t gone into the performance of the camera in much detail – mainly because I’ve been working with pre-production firmware which is always slower than the final iterations. However AF seems to be pretty snappy (although there are no phase detect points). Touch focusing on the LCD screen works really well; it would be nice to see Leica implement a touch-shutter (I’ve asked – perhaps they will).

I had always felt that Leica would do well to join the µ43 rather than inventing a new lens mount (especially considering their connection with Panasonic). I’ve changed my mind – the new lenses really are lovely, and the very large lens mount does seem to keep their options open for the future. New lenses are coming later in the year, and in the meantime shooting with Leica M and R lenses is a really viable option. I’ve been using the R 60mm macro Elmarit and the R 80-200 f4 zoom, together with the M135 APO Telyt, and there isn’t much that’s more fun than shooting the Noctilux wide open with an extension tube.

The image quality is excellent and the camera is fun to use, easy to carry and a lovely object. It also opens exciting new opportunities for Leica; I’m sure that new bodies will follow, but in the meantime we have a capable and very different camera to use right now. I certainly want one!

 

More Shots from the Leica T by Jono Slack.

 

Scarlett Rose Slack taken with the Leica T and the Leica 135mm Apo Telyt at f3.4

Scarlett Rose Slack taken with the Leica T and the Leica 135mm Apo Telyt at f3.4

 

The Ulterior Motive

Our Grand-daughter Scarlett Rose Slack was born in Norwich Hospital on 26th April 2013. She should have been born on August 6th, making her more than 15 weeks early. For a while things were very scary and frightening for her parents, and very unpleasant for her (all those tubes and drugs). When she was born she was 1lb 10oz (740gms)

The Staff at NICU looked after her with huge dedication and attention, and her parents were very brave. She was in NICU for 73 days. When she left hospital for home she weighed nearly 4lb.

Scarlett was very angry and very determined. Now, Almost a year later, She is a feisty and charming young lady, deeply in love with her brother Oscar, and giving her parents the run around big time.

To help NICU to provide the best possible service to other lucky babies, and also as a sign of recognition of what they have done for Scarlett; some of Scarlett’s relations and friends are doing a 100km bicycle ride on the day after her first birthday (yes, me too I’m afraid).

If you would like to donate to a fantastic cause, please log on to Scarlett’s Cyclers Virgin Giving website: Click on  Scarlett’s Cyclers below. I have also put together a ‘roll of film’ (36 images) to celebrate Scarlett’s first year  –   Some of them are with Leica T – I hope you enjoy them.

This is also a good opportunity to thank the many many people who have already given so generously (you know who you are even if we don’t)

THANK YOU.

Scarlett’s first year (images)

Scarlett’s Cyclers (Virgin Giving Page)

 

Jono Slack

A Selection of Excellence from The Leica Meet (8)

The top shots from the last two weeks from The Leica Meet Flickr

Alex Wohlbold

Alex Wohlbold

Alvaro Lucena

Alvaro Lucena

Andrey Nesmiyan

Andrey Nesmiyan

Andrey Nesmiyan

Andrey Nesmiyan

Fredrik Lübbe

Fredrik Lübbe

Fredrik Lübbe

Fredrik Lübbe

Gary Ong

Gary Ong

Gavin Mills

Gavin Mills

Hun Shiun

Hun Shiun

Iwan Setiabudi

Iwan Setiabudi

Joe Nattapol Suphawong

Joe Nattapol Suphawong

John Kuan

John Kuan

Mike J Pratt

Mike J Pratt

Nathanael Rony Sidharta

Nathanael Rony Sidharta

Nicolas Ulmer

Nicolas Ulmer

Oddy Kasim

Oddy Kasim

Paul Borg Olivier

Paul Borg Olivier

Pedro Matos

Pedro Matos

Rainer Vollmer

Rainer Vollmer

Sung S Lee

Sung S Lee

Takeshi Imai

Takeshi Imai

Teuku Adiftrian

Teuku Adiftrian

Tianliang Hau

Tianliang Hau

Tristan Blonz

Tristan Blonz

Yonathan Budi

Yonathan Budi

If you would like your photo removed from this article, please contact me via this blog.

A Selection of Excellence from The Leica Meet (8)

Antonio Sánchez-Barriga

Antonio Sánchez-Barriga

Benny Asrul

Benny Asrul

Bill McCarroll

Bill McCarroll

Chai De Landrón-Smith

Chai De Landrón-Smith

Danny Ardiono Hadiatmodjo

Danny Ardiono Hadiatmodjo

Dian Savitri

Dian Savitri

Dirk Holvoet

Dirk Holvoet

Dwidjo Hanggara

Dwidjo Hanggara

Eileen McCarney Muldoon

Eileen McCarney Muldoon

Fredrik Lübbe

Fredrik Lübbe

Gavin Mills

Gavin Mills

Irfan A. Tachrir

Irfan A. Tachrir

Jakop Iskandar

Jakop Iskandar

Jason Howe

Jason Howe

John Pickles

John Pickles

Kent Deitemeyer

Kent Deitemeyer

Kresna Priawan

Kresna Priawan

Marc Ho

Marc Ho

Mas Nyoman Aik

Mas Nyoman Aik

Mike Schneider

Mike Schneider

Nathan Santoso

Nathan Santoso

Nathanael Rony Sidharta

Nathanael Rony Sidharta

Nick Grewal

Nick Grewal

Olaf Willoughby

Olaf Willoughby

Paul Borg Olivier

Paul Borg Olivier

Pedro Matos

Pedro Matos

Roger Yip

Roger Yip

Stefan Biber

Stefan Biber

Stephen Cosh

Stephen Cosh

Sung S Lee

Sung S Lee

William Jusuf

William Jusuf

Yonathan Budi

Yonathan Budi

Yongkie Lie

Yongkie Lie

The top shots from the last two weeks from The Leica Meet Flickr group curated by Gavin Mills.

If you would like your photo removed from this article, please contact us via this blog.

A Selection of Excellence from The Leica Meet (7)

The top shots from the last two weeks from The Leica Meet Flickr group curated by Gavin Mills.

Marc Hartog

Marc Hartog

Yongki Lie

Yongki Lie

Wook Bang

Wook Bang

Teuku Adifitrian

Teuku Adifitrian

Sung S Lee

Sung S Lee

Stephen Cosh

Stephen Cosh

Stephen Cosh

Stephen Cosh

Rossie Zen

Rossie Zen

Rossie Zen

Rossie Zen

Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis

Ramon Anastacio

Ramon Anastacio

Ramon Anastacio

Ramon Anastacio

Paul Higgin

Paul Higgin

Olaf Willoughby

Olaf Willoughby

Matt Broughton

Matt Broughton

Makka Kesuma

Makka Kesuma

Lluis Ripol

Lluis Ripol

Leo De Bock

Leo De Bock

Laurent Hette

Laurent Hette

Kresna Priawan

Kresna Priawan

JB Rasor

JB Rasor

Irfan A. Tachrir

Irfan A. Tachrir

Hernan Farias

Hernan Farias

Guillaume Gilbert

Guillaume Gilbert

Fredrik Lübb

Fredrik Lübb

Fatima Salcedo

Fatima Salcedo

Fatima Salcedo

Fatima Salcedo

Elie Vega

Elie Vega

Eileen McCarney Muldoon

Eileen McCarney Muldoon

Dian Savitri

Dian Savitri

Darko Hristov

Darko Hristov

Danny Ardiono Hadiatmodjo

Danny Ardiono Hadiatmodjo

Chai De Landrón-Smith

Chai De Landrón-Smith

Chai De Landrón-Smith

Chai De Landrón-Smith

Cemal Sagnak

Cemal Sagnak

Bond James

Bond James

Benny Asrul

Benny Asrul

Benny Asrul

Benny Asrul

Axel Wohlbold

Axel Wohlbold

Air Kesarin

Air Kesarin

If you would like your photo removed from this article, please contact me via this blog.

A Selection of Excellence from The Leica Meet (6)

The top shots from the last two weeks from The Leica Meet Flickr group.

Zoran Kulusic-Neral

Zoran Kulusic-Neral

Yonathan Budi

Yonathan Budi

Wook Bang

Wook Bang

Win Soegondo

Win Soegondo

Tobias Gaulke

Tobias Gaulke

Teuku Adifitrian

Teuku Adifitrian

Sung S Lee

Sung S Lee

Roger Yip

Roger Yip

Rod Higginson

Rod Higginson

Pablo Sanz

Pablo Sanz

Olaf Willoughby

Olaf Willoughby

Nicoblue

Nicoblue

Khaled Al Abdul-Mughni

Khaled Al Abdul-Mughni

Johannes Huwe

Johannes Huwe

Jed Best

Jed Best

JB Rasor

JB Rasor

Haoming Wang

Haoming Wang

Grzegorz Kobiela

Grzegorz Kobiela

Gianluca Federighi

Gianluca Federighi

Gavin Mills

Gavin Mills

Fredrik Lubbe

Fredrik Lubbe

Dirk Holvoet

Dirk Holvoet

Derlin Zhang

Derlin Zhang

Christine de Loë

Christine de Loë

Bill McCarroll

Bill McCarroll

Benya Acame

Benya Acame

Axel Wohlbold

Axel Wohlbold

Antonio Sanchez-Barriga

Antonio Sanchez-Barriga

Alvaro Lucena

Alvaro Lucena

Adam Miller

Adam Miller

If you would like your photo removed from this article, please contact me via this blog.

A Selection of Excellence from The Leica Meet (5)

This weeks top shots from The Leica Meet Flickr group.

Alvaro Lucena

Alvaro Lucena

Antonio Sánchez-Barriga

Antonio Sánchez-Barriga

Axel Wohlbold

Axel Wohlbold

Benya Acame

Benya Acame

bluesphere

bluesphere

Dian Savitri

Dian Savitri

Dirk Holvoet

Dirk Holvoet

Eileen McCarney Muldoon

Eileen McCarney Muldoon

Fabio Lugaro

Fabio Lugaro

Gavin Mills

Gavin Mills

James Hughes

James Hughes

Lillo Cabrera

Lillo Cabrera

Marc Hartog

Marc Hartog

Michael Walker-Toye

Michael Walker-Toye

Olaf Willoughby

Olaf Willoughby

Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis

Rod Higginson

Rod Higginson

Sorin Vidis

Sorin Vidis

Stephen Cosh

Stephen Cosh

Teuku Adifitrian

Teuku Adifitrian

Win Soegondo

Win Soegondo

If you would like your photo removed from this article, please contact me via this blog.