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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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.

MB105375

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.

MB105411

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.

MS105477MB105406

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

MB105426MS105506

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

MS105482

MS105486

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

MB105447

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.

The new Leica X (type 113) by Jonathan Slack

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Introduction 
In 2009 Leica surprised everyone by bringing out an autofocus camera with an 12mp APSc sensor and a fixed 35mm equivalent f2.8 lens. In 2012 they refined the concept in the same body, releasing the X2, this time with a 16mp sensor and better response times, with the option of using an optional external viewfinder (a 1.44m dot unit.)
The X-Vario came in 2013, this had the same sensor as the X2 in a slightly larger body with a 28-70mm (equivalent) lens. Leica designed the lens for optimum optical performance in a small package; the compromise needed to make this possible was to make the lens variable aperture and rather slow (f3.5 – f6.4). The LCD was upgraded to a 920k dot unit, and the X-Vario used the same EVF as the Leica X2 and the Leica M (typ 240).
The X-Vario received a mixed reception as a result of the slow lens, and some questionable publicity material. However, it has come to be much appreciated by lots of photographers as an elegant and no-nonsense travel camera with really fantastic image quality. The recent firmware update has improved the camera further.
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This brings me to Leica’s newest X camera – code named Anna-Louisa, but now to be the Leica X (typ 113). It uses the same basic body as the X-Vario but with a fixed 35mm equivalent f1.7 lens.
I’ve been testing the camera since July, including a 2 week trip to Crete (where this article is being written). As a tester for Leica, my allegiance is to Leica, and if I find things wrong with the camera, then my duty is to tell Leica about it rather than the world in general. On the other hand, Leica have never had any influence over what I write, and I wouldn’t dream of saying anything that I don’t consider to be absolutely true.
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The Body
The Leica X (typ 113) is a small 16mp APSc camera with a fixed lens: the 23mm f1.7 Summilux Aspherical. The body is just a little smaller than a classic M6. Like the other X cameras it has shutter speed and Aperture dials on the top plate, together with a video button. Setting the Aperture dial to A gives you Shutter priority, setting the Shutter speed dial to A gives you Aperture priority and setting both to A gives you program mode.
The rear of the camera has the same large 920,000 dot LCD as the X-Vario. On the right hand side it has a thumbwheel which also serves as a thumb rest. There is also a three way switch; up for exposure compensation, left for self timer and right for flash settings (this only works when the popup flash is popped up). In the centre is the Info button which changes the display settings. The thumb wheel and the switch are now in black (unlike the chrome of the X-Vario).
On the left hand side of the LCD are the buttons with the same layout as the X-Vario, from the top
Play
Delete / Focus (delete in Play mode, focus options when in AF mode)
WB (White Balance)
ISO
Menu/Set
The whole setup is elegant and well thought through: both flexible and straightforward.
The only other change from the X-Vario is the hot-shoe. This is the same as the Leica T, with the EVF connector in the inside edge; the Typ 113 uses the same Visoflex EVF as the Leica T with a 2.36 million dot unit (probably the same basic unit as the Sony A7, the Olympus E-M1 and the Fuji X-T1).
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The Lens
Finally! A fast lens in a Leica X camera, and this lens is a real cracker – it’s a 23mm f1.7 (35mm equivalent). It’s commendably small, and has internal focusing, so that it doesn’t change length, either when the camera is switched on, or during focusing. It has a proper manual focus ring, with a distance scale, unlike the normal ‘focus by wire’ found on similar, small, fixed focal length cameras. Auto Focus is enabled by turning the focus ring beyond infinity (there is a firm detent).
The lens focuses right down to 20cm, although (like the Leica T) the maximum aperture is reduced to f2.8 at the closest focus distance to ensure the best image quality
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Ergonomics and Operation
Although larger than the X1 and X2, many will feel that Anna-Louisa is the perfect size for street and travel photography. The thumb wheel housing acts as a good stability aid (smaller but almost as good as the winder lever on an M6) and the controls are perfectly clear and obvious; there are no programmable buttons, and the only button which changes it’s function is the Delete/Focus button.
Of course, it would be nice to have a built in EVF, but the new Visoflex works well with the camera. Unlike the old EVF on the Leica M and the X-Vario it has an eye level sensor, so there is no need to press a button to change from LCD to EVF.
Anna-Louisa is certainly no sports camera, but it is responsive and there are no obvious delays when shooting.
The shutter is almost silent and shutter lag is minimal. Auto focus is quick (although less reliable at closest focus and infinity – hopefully this can be improved with a firmware update). Manual focus with the proper focus ring is a joy, and although the camera doesn’t have Focus Peaking, it does have the central square zoom in focus assist of the X-Vario.
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Conclusion
The new arrangement with the higher resolution EVF and the eye sensor LCD/EVF transfer are real improvements over the X-Vario. Added to this all the good points of the X-Vario in terms of controls and ergonomics have been retained.
To my mind the Leica X (Typ 113) is the X camera come of age. Straightforward and logical operation coupled with a familiar form factor and a wonderful fast lens. It doesn’t offer the bells and whistles of some of the competition, but it does offer manual control of Shutter Speed, Aperture, Focusing, White Balance, ISO and exposure compensation all with labelled controls, it also has the fastest lens in it’s class.
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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