Leica Q Hands on Review (Video + Sample Images)


The Leica Q is an awesome new compact camera from Leica. I was lucky enough to be able to get my hands on it for a little while yesterday and was not only able to make the hands on review (above) but also a number of sample images from a walk around with this camera. This is all thanks to the Leica Store Soho, in NYC, as of yesterday (June 12, 2015) they still had these bad boys in stock, so look them up if you want one.

Anyway, as you will notice from the video I use the words “nice” and “cool” about a million times. Honestly, its just the words that kept springing to mind when I was holding this camera. I’m a Leica M shooter, I have been for many year now, and nothing will replace my digital Leica M’s (Leica M9, and Leica M9 Monochrome) or my 35mm film Leica M7. However, you don’t always want to take 1 to 3 expensive, manual focus cameras and multiple lenses on every trip or excursion you take. It was for this reason that I bought the Sony RX1r with its 36mp full-frame sensor and fixed 35mm f/2.0 Zeiss lens. When I bought this camera last year I liked its straight forward ness, and its lack of an EVF (and optional Optical viewfinder, which I always use). I don’t like EVF’s, I’m just going to say that upfront, and I think you already knew that about me. When I’m taking pictures, I want to see the scene with nothing in the way, and EVF’s don’t do that for me. That being said, the new Leica Q has the best EVF I have seen to date on any camera clocking in at 3.68mp with a high refresh rate. The new sensor on this camera is also very nice and provides shocking ISO performance for a Leica, and for cameras in general. The sensor, combined with the sharp new 28mm f/1.7 Summilux lens and its fast and accurate autofocus makes this camera a really nice walking around camera.

Sample image from the new Leica Q taken in Soho, NYC.

Leica Q ~ 1/640 – f/5.6 – ISO 200 @ 28mm

Size and Build Quality: As you can see in the video above, the Leica Q is a relatively substantial size for a compact camera, being very similar in dimensions to the Leica M240 (excluding thickness and weight of course). However, thanks to its magnesium alloy body, it is extremely light, in fact it is lighter then the smaller Leica X and Leica Q cameras which feature aluminum bodies. This make the camera really nice to hold and carry around. The thumb detent on the back of the camera fell right into place for my hand and added a nice bit of grip. Without this, I think the camera would have been a bit slippery. The addition of the optional hand grip made this camera feel really nice in the hand, and helped make it a really nice package to carry around.

Despite its light weight the camera feels very substantial and solid. Generally, when you think of a light weight camera you think of something flimsy (I know I do) however with this Made in German camera you will not only be marveling at its weight, but also its sturdiness and build quality.

Sample image from the new Leica Q taken in Soho, NYC.

Leica Q – 1/100 – f/1.7 – ISO 800 @ 28mm

Menus / Dials / Buttons / Controls: The majority of the controls on this camera are pretty darn good, as you would expect. Everything on the top plate of the camera functions exactly the way that it should from a Leica. Personally, I think I would have liked to have seen a traditional threaded cable release on the top of this camera. I like how threaded cable release look and feel and think this is a classic design element that they should have stuck with.

As you can see in the video, the various controls on the lens itself function very well as well and they are all built the way that they should be. I can’t see anyone having a problem with any of these controls on this camera.

On the rear of the camera, I have one slight complaint. This is the “Tri-Elmar” button which engages the crop modes on the rear of the camera. I get the reasons to offer these crop mode features (for idiots), but having their own dedicated button seems a bit strange to me. I suspect (and hope) that in the first firmware update for this camera they decide to make this button into a programmable function button so that you can map some other function to this button. The button is well placed and not likely to be hit while operating the camera, my concern with this button is that it is unnecessary to have a dedicated button for this Tri-Elmar mode when it offers nothing that you couldn’t do with a crop in post. Maybe there is more to the Tri-Elmar mode that I missed, but all I can say is a real Tri-Elmar lens on the camera would have been far more preferable to this feature.

The menu system is very simple and straight forward, but I think that there are a few things which will need to be improved in firmware updates (easy fixes). First is the submenu architecture. When you go into the submenu’s of this camera its possible to get a bit lost, so some sort of directory at the top letting you know where you are would be nice. Another thing is that the menu is basically just one long list that you scroll down. This should be broken up into pages or sections or something. I think the easiest implementation for this camera would be a Canon style menu system where going left/right on the directional pad lets you get to the different pages.

Sample Image from the New Leica Q showing its wide dynamic range in Soho, NYC

RAW DNG (Left) – Edited ACR (Right)

Leica Q – 1/3200 – f/4.0 – ISO 200 @ 28mm

Image Quality: The new sensor in the Leica Q is really nice, and certainly outclassed the (older) Leica M240 in my testing. Images a vibrant and crisp thanks to the pairing of this sensor and the ultra-sharp 28mm f/1.7 Summilux lens on this camera. As you can see in the above example, the camera packs in a lot of dynamic range which can easily be brought out with little effort in editing to make some really nice images.

The real start of the show for this sensor though is its ISO performance. This camera has some one of the nicest ISO ranges that I have seen on a camera to date, and certainly the  best ISO range to date in a full-frame Leica camera. Leica has done away with some of their weird half-stop ISO’s and this camera now offers an ISO range from 100-50,000 (100 – 200 – 400 – 800 – 1600 – 3200 – 6400 – 12,500 – 25,000 – 50,000. ISO’s from 100-6400 are impressively clean and very usable, for me even ISO 12,500 would be usable if I didn’t plan to crop the image significantly. ISO 25,000 could due in a pinch, but is starting to push it. ISO 50,000 isn’t as terrible as you might expect, and could also do if you were really pressed for some reason. With a 28mm f/1.7 lens, and a lot of dynamic range you shouldn’t ever really have to go up this high anyway.

The most impressive thing for me in the ISO range is the reduction of blotchy color noise which plagues most ultra-high ISO’s. For me with this camera, the noise produced from the entire ISO range (up to ISO 25,000)  is relatively pleasing and not too distracting. It does this by being pretty uniform and retaining a lot of nice detail (relatively speaking of course). At ISO 50,000 some banding starts to show making it much more distracting, and not pleasing; it is also accompanied by enough loss of detail to be bothersome if you are planning to print big. You can see 100% crops of the entire ISO range at the bottom of this post. You can also head over to my Flickr page for a full-resolution ISO series (as well as 100% crops). This ISO series was done hand held, but thanks to the lightweight of the camera and dedicated ISO button, I think it came out reasonably well. 

Sample image from the new Leica Q taken in Soho, NYC.

Leica Q – 1/800 – f/4.0 – ISO 200 @ 28mm

Lens / Optical Performance: The lens on the Leica Q is top notch. It is very sharp at all apertures with minimal vignetting wide open, particularly impressive for a large aperture wide angle lens. You certainly won’t be complaining about the sharpness coming out of this lens. I think it has been really nicely paired with the sensor to bring out the best of both, which is one of the great things about cameras like the this Leica Q, the Sony RX1 (and RX1R), and the Fuji X100s.

The 28mm focal length is a very mature focal length and it is interesting that Leica is putting it into a fixed lens camera. I happen to like 28mm (I think I generally prefer 35mm of all focal lengths) and find that it can create some really nice images. To me, 28mm lives in a strange world between 24mm (wide angle) and 35mm (wide standard). It, in theory, has minimal distortion and can be used for many different types of photography. In most shooting you won’t notice the minimal distortion that the lens on the Leica Q has, However, in the image above it is relatively obvious. I suspect that once Adobe puts a lens corrections profile in for this lens that it will become very flat which will be excellent.

As I mention in the video, the Leica Q does have a dedicated macro mode. It is true that the Macro mode lets the camera focus closer, however “macro” has to be taken with a grain of salt because this is a 28mm lens. Rather then macro, lets just call it close focus. It’s well integrated and like many of the controls on the Leica Q requires deliberate action to engage, meaning that it cannot be accidentally engaged. The changing focus scales are also pretty cool.

Sample image from the new Leica Q taken in Soho, NYC.

Leica Q – 1/80 – f/4.0 – ISO 800 @ 28mm

Manual focus functions well on the Leica Q, feeling pretty similar to manual focusing a real Leica lens. Focus peaking is also offered if you need it, which you probably well. Personally I think manual focus on a camera like this is a bit of a gimmick, because even with the excellent EVF on this camera it is still very difficult to be able to accurately focus on this thing (if you ask me). Really the only part of this camera that feels kitschy to me is the focusing tab. It feels like a bad imitation of the focusing tab on a 50mm Summilux (or other) Leica lens. Its the only noticeably plastic-y feeling part which is disappointing. The small control button on it however is very well implemented. Again it has to be deliberately pressed and effort applied to switch between manual focus and autofocus. I can’t believe that anyone will ever have a problem because of how robust a control this is.

The Leaf shutter in this lens is also great, allowing the camera to go all the way up to 1/16000 of a second which is pretty cool. It means that whatever bokeh / shallow DoF you can get out of this lens will be available to you in most lighting conditions. Being a leaf shutter it also reduces vibrations which is also nice, though you probably won’t ever notice whilst shooting this camera handheld with a 28mm lens (your only option ;) ). Of course another nice thing about this leaf shutter is that it is virtually silent, meaning you can use this camera just about anywhere.

Sample image from the new Leica Q taken in Soho, NYC.

Leica Q ~  1/125 – f/4.0 – ISO 200 @ 28mm

Things I Don’t Like: Both surprisingly and unsurprisingly when it comes down to it there is really only one thing about this camera that I don’t like (take a wild guess), the electronic viewfinder (EVF). What is surprising about this is that this is really the only major complaint that I have with this camera, and taking this complaint into account, I still kind of want this camera. EVFs do nothing for me, I have already discussed this in this review and elsewhere. I just want to say it one more time though, this is a really good EVF! That being said, I don’t really know why it is on this camera. I think that this camera should have had a hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder system like on the Fujiflim X100. I think Leica could have sprinkled some of their magic on a feature like this and made it even better then Fuji’s. Personally this being an EVF only camera doesn’t make sense to me in the realm of Leica and it is pretty surprising that this is something that they would chose to do. Hopefully its not a sign of future things to come, maybe version 2.0 will have a hybrid viewfinder, which would be pretty cool, and make this a really powerful camera if you ask me.

I have one other slight complaint about this camera. The Leica Q can only record images in two modes 1. JPEG 2. JPEG + DNG. On the surface this doesn’t make much sense, why can’t they just have a third DNG only option? Well, the answer is pretty pathetic. The answer is the preview system that Leica uses needs JPEG’s to generate the previews. This may sound like an alien concept to most, given that every other camera on the planet manages to be able to shoot in DNG (RAW) only and still generate previews. This is a bit of laziness on the part of Leica which is more of a nuisance then anything else. I think it would take a pretty extensive firmware fix to change this, but maybe not. However, if this is my second biggest complaint about this camera, then by my own estimation this must mean that it is a pretty solid camera (which I think it is).

Sample Image of the high ISO performance of the Leica Q at ISO 12,500

How do you like them apples?

Leica Q – 1/800 – f/8.0 – ISO 12,500 @ 28mm

Conclusion: As you have seen I was really taken with this camera. I’m not sure that it would make me switch from my Sony RX1, but it is certainly something wroth giving some more consideration considering the awesome ergonomics and the great image quality that the Leica Q delivers. It would be nice if it had some high-quality add-on lenses like the Fujifilm X100 which let it optically go wider as well as more telephoto (18mm, 35mm, 50mm, and maybe longer)

Priced at $4250 this isn’t the “affordable” Leica M that people want, but its not supposed to be. It is supposed to be a high-end compact camera, and it more then delivers 0n that promise. Given that this camera has a better sensor then a Leica M240, I think its the best comparison when considering price. This would be an $11-13k system on a Leica M, and that wouldn’t have autofocus or automated features for easy shooting (yes Leica M users don’t want this, but Leica Q users probably do). The camera is also competitively priced when compared to my Sony RX1R. The RX1R body alone is $2800, the Lens hood is $175, the thumbs-up grip is $250, and then the optical viewfinder is $600 (EVF is $450). If you total up this my Sony package it comes to $3825, which makes the Leica Q sound pretty reasonable, and not outlandish. Given the image quality you get form this camera I think that it is well priced and should sell very well (possibly to me).

New PhaseOne XF Camera Body Announced

PhaseOne XF

It’s finally here, after all the years, after all the rumors, and after all the late breaking leaks, the new PhaseOne XF body has been announced. The new PhaseOne XF body replaces the aging 645DF plus platform and replaces it with a truly modern medium format digital platform for those who need that. The last model of Mamiya 645 based cameras, the 645DF+ didn’t differ that much from the original Mamiya 645AF which was released in September of 1999. Yes improvements were made and compatibility added for Digital Backs and Leaf Shutter lenses, but the fact of the matter is this system (as well as the Hasselblad H released at Photokina in 2002) have remained substantively unchanged for over a decade. As digital backs have become more advanced and as users have come to expect more out of their modern cameras (due to rapid advancements in ILC’s and DSLR’s), the MamiyaLeaf / PhaseOne 645DF+ and Hasselblad H bodies could not keep up. It should also be noted, that the XF camera body will be exclusive to PhaseOne, and will not be offered in a MamiyaLeaf variant.

Before beginning to comment on this camera, it should be noted that I have not handled it, but I hope to as soon as possible, and hopefully also be able to produce a video showcasing some of its features. For more information, head over to Digital Transitions website to read more about new features on the PhaseOne XF.

After seeing the basically the same camera body on all PhaseOne cameras for the past decade, it is refreshing to see a new design on the PhaseOne XF. Other then for aesthetic reasons, this camera is necessarily physically different because of all of its new features. I like the design, its reminiscent of more robust earlier film cameras like the Mamiya M645 as well as others. The PhaseOne XF takes design cues from the PhaseOne IQ series of digital backs and seems to flow as an extension of this.

The design is much more then a pretty face, and it has modularity, and customizability at its core. The most notable design feature, and one that was noted as lacking on the 645DF+ (compared to the Hasselblad H System) was a waist level viewfinder (WLF), which has been added on the PhaseOne XF camera body. Even with added modularity (which could create weak points), PhaseOne has beefed up the camera to make it significantly more durable and robust. This comes at a price, of a slightly heavier camera body. I can only speak for myself, but I am happy to carry a bit more weight for a lot more durability. Another interesting physical feature is that all ports are now covered like the firewire port on an IQ series digital back without the need to worry about loosing the small rubber covers that plagued the 645DF+ (and earlier models).

In terms of physical added modularity, there are two big changes. The addition of a modular viewfinder has opened up new doors in creative uses of the PhaseOne platform. Medium format photography was created with the Hasselblad V system, with the idea of modularity and this is something that has carried through to today allowing photographers to create a camera that works for them for their applications. The waist level viewfinder will be a great addition to the system that many photographers across different types of photography have requested. Hasselblad V series users have enjoyed this feature for 60 years, and Hasselblad H users, and Contax 645 users have also had access to WLF viewfinders for years. One slight bummer with the WLF is that you will not be able to see exposure information when using the WLF the way you will with the normal 90 degree viewfinder. Speaking of the 90 degree viewfinder, it is supposed to be much brighter then the 645DF+ which should allow for some interesting improvements in the uses of slower lenses including my Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and Mamiya 500mm f/4.5 APO lenses.

More exciting (also in the vein of manual focus lenses), as the addition of interchangeable focusing screens on the PhaseOne XF camera body. You can now choose between Matte, Split, and Center Prism screens on the XF camera body. I am sure that others like Bill Maxwell will also offer focusing screens for these cameras in different flavors. One of the problems with the Mamiya 645AFD and PhaseOne 645DF platforms was that, while their screens were interchangeable it was a much more difficult process (I am not the foremost expert on this but I will try and explain as best I can). Basically, the way the 645DF (and earlier) bodies were made, the focusing screens would be warped during manufacturing, this wasn’t a problem because calibration of the sensors was done after this process occurred, this meant that despite an individual body/screens warping the camera would be correctly calibrated. However, this also meant that if you swapped out the focusing screen for a new custom one, the camera would have to be recalibrate. This is because the new focusing screen would be flat, and this is not what the Mamiya/PhaseOne bodies were calibrated for. So while these screens were interchangeable, they were not easily interchangeable because of the re-calibibration that was necessary. I assume the modular PhaseOne XF will feature a focus screen changing system similar to the Hasselblad V and Hasselblad H series cameras, which is very easy taking mere seconds.

The PhaseOne XF camera body brings in amazing new customizability thanks to its many user programmable buttons, as well as its new touch control panel on the top o the camera. This means that users will be able to decide what they want where, and more interestingly how they want it to act. You will be able to customize not just the feature that the controls access, but also how the controls function. If you like you shutter speed or aperture dials to rotate in a particular way, you will now be able to do that. This is great customizability that the 645DF+ was lacking due to its confusing and arcane menu system. One feature that I am particularly excited to be able to map to a specific button is the Automatic Hyperlocal Focusing mode, which does exactly what it sounds like based on the lens attached. This is great and will allow for “mystical”  hyperfocal focusing to be done with ease.

Speaking of focusing, the PhaseOne XF camera body has a new, in-house autofocus system that they are calling the Honeybee focusing system (don’t ask me why). I’m not the best person to explain the intricacies of this focusing system, but the fact of the matter is it should be much better then the current focusing system which isn’t always the best. I believe it does this through a small new CMOS style AF sensor that should decrease focusing errors. While this is all very exciting, one thing that users have cried out for is movable auto-focus points, unfortunately we will have to keep waiting. While more accurate, center point focusing only is a great disappointment. I don’t really care what reasons (excuses) are offered for this, its a extremely important feature that all DLSR’s have, and would be a defining feature of a modern medium format camera body. As far as I am concerned, this is really the biggest blunder of this camera.

But now to something much more exciting! The PhaseOne XF camera body will now use the same rechargeable batteries as the PhaseOne digital backs! This is huge, and awesome and makes life much easier. An independent company and then PhaseOne released a different rechargeable battery solution for the 645DF+ camera body, however this was a pain since it meant another charger, and an oddly shaped battery to carry. So I am quite pleased with this improvement since the PhaseOne DB batteries are very easy to carry and use. Also, the XF and IQ3 series will be able to share power when put together, which is one of the interesting new features of the IQ3 series (discussed below).

More of a line-item then anything else, yet still worth talking about a Profoto wireless trigger is now integrated into the PhaseOne XF camera body with a 20m range. It seems as if they may have done away with the V-Grip Air, which is a bit of a bummer. Yes, one part of the V-Grip Air was the added Profoto wireless integration, but the biggest things for me were the additional battery compartment and the added ergonomics of the shutter release, the V-Grip basically lives on my 645DF camera body. Hopefully this is something that they will bring back.

Update: I have been told that, if there is enough demand a vertical grip solution of the new XF camera body will be provide, so make sure you tell your dealer that you want one! I sure do. 

The PhaseOne XF also features an accelerometer and 6-axis Gyro. Which I understand will become powerful tools as new features are added to this body through firmware upgrades. At release, an interesting feature resulting from these components is the “Seismographic mode”. This mode, uses mirror lock up (MLU) + a timer, with the aforementioned sensors to reduce vibrations when taking long exposure images. It does this by monitoring vibrations until they are reduced and then fires the camera shutter at this optimal moment. I believe this feature may only work with Leaf Shutter lenses, but I will update when this has been confirmed for me. Either way, really cool feature that takes advantage of these fancy new components, it will be exciting to see what else they will be able to do in the future (maybe tracking motion, so that a image-stabalization like de-blur feature can be used in C1?, after all once you have the movement data, its just math SEE BELOW).

Update: Seismographic mode can be used with all lenses, however it will be most effective with leaf shutter lenses, given the vibration reduction inherent in not using the focal plane shutter. 

Also, we should be very excited about the possibilities of the accelerometer, at the time of my initial writing I was not aware of this, however a US Patent #US6747690 B2 entitled Digital camera with integrated accelerometers filed by PhaseOne a number of years ago suggests in its abstract that “Data relating to static and dynamic accelerations are stored with recorded image data for further processing, such as for correcting image data for roll, pitch and vibrations … Data may also be used on-the-fly for smear suppression caused by vibrations.” There are other  PhaseOne patents that deal with the accelerometer, but this one would suggest that what I alluded to above could very much be on the menu in the not too distant future, and would certainly be a modern feature!

Along with the large degree of user customizability in the physical features, the Firmware of the PhaseOne XF will also be easily upgradable as new features are enabled. While details of future features are scarce at launch, there are a number of exciting possibilities given the large degree of integration between digital backs and the camera body that the XF platform offers.

CaptureOne 8.3, will also feature much more integration of camera body controls (as you would expect) with the PhaseoOne XF body. This is great since it opens up new possibilities for remote control of the camera for stability as well as creative image making where the camera controls might be inaccessible.

The PhaseOne XF camera body will be compatible with the new PhaseOne IQ3 series cameras (launched with the XF) as well as with IQ2 and IQ1 series digital backs. P+ back compatibility will not be included, which I imagine has more to do with their being less useful given their lack of potential for integration into the XF then anything else. IQ3 series backs will be fully integrated into the PhaseOne XF, which (to me) is hauntingly reminiscent of the Hasselblad closed system that started with the H3D under similar auspices. However, will tighter integration is offered, it is still very much an open system. IQ2 series digital backs will be able to access most of the integrated features that the IQ3 will enjoy through a firmware upgrade. The IQ1 series of digital backs will not be able to enjoy this integration, however will still be usable on the PhaseOne XF, and will be able to enjoy the new features of the camera body.

Two new lenses have been announced. A Leaf shutter 120mm f/4 macro lens (which has been a long time coming), as well as a new leaf shutter 35mm f/3.5 wide angle lens with a new optical formula. I’m sure people will love the LS ability on the 120mm lenses, but I am most excited about the new design 35mm lens which should be a nice upgrade to the aging Mamiya 35mm f/3.5D lens (which I have been using a lot more recently). An exciting new feature of the PhaseOne XF camera body is that it will have new, lens specific focus calibration that is user customizable. For these two new lenses, it will be based on serial number, allowing for the greatest customization possible for optimal focusing. With older lenses, these features will be available but they will be focal-length specific rather then lens specific, great new feature to help improve image quality if you ask me.

As mentioned the PhaseOne IQ3 will offer higher integration with the PhaseOne XF camera body. This will be done mostly through the greater control given to the entire system through CaptureOne. There will also be a new power share feature allowing for the back and body to power each other which is also nice to allow for extended shooting if one runs out of power. I will be following up in much greater detail about the IQ3 series digital backs later today (and will link to that here).

To conclude, I will say that the PhaseOne XF camera body offers many neat new features that we have wanted for a long time. It is the most modern medium format digital camera body, however it is still far off from the most lame DLSR. That being said, its the best we’ve got (re-modern features) so thats something. I will be interested to see how some of the new features discussed above work (particularly the autofocus with AF lenses as well as how it helps in Manual Focus only lens focusing). All of these new features are all well and good, but lets see what they are going to cost…

First, according to Lance Schad (link to direct email) of Digital Transitions, there will be an upgrade program for PhaseOne 645DF and 645DF+ users, with more information to come on this in the near future. For the moment, pricing stands as follows:

  • XF Camera Body, Prism Viewfinder, 80mm LS Lens -$8,990.00
  •  XF Camera Body with Prism Viewfinder – $7,990.00
  •  XF Camera Body (no viewfinder) – $6,490.00
  •  XF Prism Viewfinder – $2,490.00
  •  XF Waist Level Finder – $790.00

You can also find a full summary of the PhaseOne XF camera body’s features below courtesy of Digital Transitions my preferred PhaseOne Dealer:

PhaseOne XF Featurese

New Medium Format Digital Back Company Survey


Hello everybody, you may have noticed that my internet presence has been greatly decreased in recent months. This has been because I have been working very hard on a new company Square Cameras. Square Cameras is going to be a new entrant into the world of medium format digital backs. Currently, we have received an initial round of funding and have begun building prototypes of our first product.

At the moment we are currently to look to raise a second round of funding to finish the current prototype and then prepare everything for production. As part of this, I have created a survey to help establish the demand for the product that Square Cameras will be introducing. Below you will find a link to the new website which features the survey. I would greatly appreciate it if you could take this survey and let me know the products you want to see us produce. Thank you!


Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Tilt-Shift Lens Brief Review (Updated)


Canon 5D Mrk III and TS-E 17mm f/4L lens ~ 1/100s – f/11 – ISO 100

As primarily a Nikon shooter, there really aren’t that many lenses that Canon has that we don’t have. However one glaring exception to this is the Canon TS-E 17mm f4/L Tilt-Shift Lens. Nikon’s PC-E Tilt-Shift lenses come in 24mm, 45mm, and 85mm varieties while Canon’s TS-E’s are offered at 17mm, 24mm, 45mm, and 90mm.

Previously I have had some exposure to the Canon TS-E lenses when I reviewed the Hartblei HCam B1. With the larger image circle of the tilt-shift lens, the Canon TS-E’s held up remarkably well showing that they had more then enough resolving power to stand up to my 80 megapixel PhaseOne IQ180. This is rather remarkable for any 35mm lens, and personally though I have not tested it I suspect that the Nikon PC-E’s wouldn’t have held up as well to 80 megapixels as they do at 36mp on the D800e.

So suffice it to say when using the Canon TS-E 17mm on the Canon 5D Mrk III its possible to get some very nice results. As far as I’m concerned, 17mm is very wide for a 35mm camera and this lens preforms very nicely and has very good edge-to-edge sharpness which can be an issue on some tilt-shift lenses.

Using a tilt-shift lens to stitch and create a larger FOV or a high-resolution image is very easy, especially when taking the images from a tripod. Adobe Photoshop’s Photomerge function (File > Automate > Photomerge) has no problem chewing through the files to get you your results.


As for this specific image, it was a bit of a difficult situation (that I think actually came out very nicely). Because of time constraints for this image, I had to take it with the Sun directly behind the building (and in the frame). I took some initial images and saw that there was lens flare happening (which really isn’t surprising when you have an ultra-wide angle lens shifted and shooting directly into the sun).

I noticed however that the Canon TS-E 17mm at f/11 did a really good job handling the area directly around the sun itself but there was unacceptable lens flare on the building. I knew I would need a card to block out the sun and get the building image. Not having anything terribly photographic, I opted for a small raincoat that I keep in my bag at all times. As you can see this allowed me to capture the sky (with the nicely rendered sun but with flare on the building) and then a second image with the jacket blocking the sun and preventing the lens flare on the building.

Thanks to the images being taken on a level tripod and taking advantage of the perspective correction of the tilt-shift lens, it was very easy to merge the two background images and then use Auto-Align (Edit > Auto-Align Layers) to align the sky image with the two background images and then mask out the building so that I had a pretty sky, and a flare-less building.

All-in-all I’m new to architectural photography so I think there is still a bit of a novelty factor present, and I hope to (always) create better images in the future. However, I think this image helps to illustrate some very interesting qualities of the unique Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Tilt-Shift lens.

Update: This article was written prior to the announcement of the Canon 5Ds and 5Ds R which are two amazing ultra-high resolution 35mm DSLR cameras. A lot of talk has surfaced about these being medium format “killers” which as I’m sure you already know, I don’t believe to be true. As we know from my use of this lens with my PhaseOne IQ180, this lens will be great for high-resolution imaging on the Canon 5Ds. Medium format digital backs and technical cameras and lenses will always have their place at the pinnacle of image quality but these will certainly be interesting options for the lower end of the architectural market and for hobbyists.


PhaseOne IQ250 does Christmas @ Rock Center (with Sample Files)


Crop – Digital Perspective Correction

Schneider-Kreuznach 28mm f/4.5 LS @ 1/100s – f/4.5 – ISO 1600

To all of those out there celebrating, Merry Christmas!

Before starting this article I should note, for some reason the uploaded pictures didn’t show so you can view them on flickr here. So please download the full-resolution sample files (See below) before jumping to any conclusions or thinking I’m out of my f-ing mind with what I’m saying.

I was lucky enough to be able to be on the ice for the 2014 Rockefeller Christmas Tree lighting, but even more excitingly, my good friend Lance Schad from Digital Transitions was nice enough to lend me the very special PhaseOne IQ250, and a Schneider-Krueznach 28mm f/4.5 LS for the event which meant I was able to get some hands on real world experience with this digital back, and the results absolutely blew me away. For the purposes of this particular article, I’m not going to get terribly involved in reviewing this camera. Basically, all you need to know that this is a killer crop 50mp Sony CMOS sensor housed within PhaseOne’s IQ2 series digital back housing meaning that you get everything that you love about your IQ series digital back, with the wonders of a medium format digital CMOS sensor. The results are absolutely stunning.

As you will see the results from this camera are absolutely insane. ISO 800, ISO 1600, ISO 3200 are all highly usable, and even the results at ISO 6400 are amazingly usable as well (albeit with some qualifications). The absolutely amazing thing about the results out of this camera AT ALL ISO’s is that there are is almost no color noise. At ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 is there noise? Of course, but because it is not color noise it is shockingly inoffensive. There is some loss of sharpness / smudging of details which is only apparent when zoomed in at ISO 3200, and even at ISO 6400 zoomed out fully you would be hard pressed to notice it.

While there are a number of cameras out there now with the Sony crop censored 50mp CMOS medium format chip, I believe that the image processing skills of PhaseOne really shine through here. FULL-DISCLOSURE: I have not been able to review sample images from the Hasselblad H5D-50c or CFV-50c, or the Pentax 645z or other PhaseOne owned variants of this camera. However that being said, I believe if compared to the competition with the same sensor the PhaseOne IQ250 would wildly out class them because of Phase’s image processing abilities.

A Few of the sample images might suffer from a little bit of camera shake, because well, I was hand holding at relatively slow shutter-speeds…and it was cold out….and I may have had a little to drink…..so give me a break. But the point remains that these images are exceedingly clean, especially from a technical perspective. Below I will show some sample images as well as a couple of ISO series. But….

Please download through this dropbox link the full JPEG and .IIQ files of these images for your edification. I’m making these images available for you free for personal use and not to be republished anywhere without my permission. If you don’t have CaptureOne, you can download it here.


To all a happy holiday and a happy new year, thank you for making this year so great for my website. I know I am behind on posting a number of articles, but look at it this way, you have some fun stuff coming your way in January!

High ISO Series Taken with the PhaseOne IQ250

Press Release: PhaseOne A-Series


Today, as part of their long-term partnership with Alpa of Switzerland, PhaseOne announced the A-series.

It should be noted that although the PhaseOne A-Series does contain Alpa components, it is being sold at all PhaseOne authorized dealers, even if they do not carry the full Alpa product line. My preferred PhaseOne dealer, Digital Transitions (digitaltransitions.com) located locally in NYC will be one of the first to have the new PhaseOne A-Series. I will be working extensively with Digital Transitions as well as PhaseOne to help bring more content about A-Series in the near future.

The A-Series is more then it appears at first glance. On the surface, it is an Alpa TC (travel compact), combined with a one of three flavors PhaseOne back and three Rodenstock lenses, and it is all of these things, however it is also a lot more.

While still usable, the PhaseOne A250 (IQ250), PhaseOne A260 (IQ260) or PhaseOne A280 (IQ280) sold with as part of the A-Series kit, will feature LCC’s for each specific lens applied in camera meaning that what you see is what you get on the back of the camera. This can be accomplished because the Alpa TC which the A-Series is based off of does not have movements. I believe that this is a huge boon for this as a compact travel system because there is much more certainty that you have got the shot, as well as the fact that it makes editing much easier. Most importantly however, it means that you can take pictures in rapidly changing conditions without having to worry about capturing an LCC (which requires a second exposure to be made, identical to the first in every way immediately after an image is taken). LCC’s vastly improve resulting images (especially with movements, but also for single-shots), however they are time consuming to capture. Being able to know that you have three lenses where your resulting images will be the absolute best on the planet straight out of the camera with no further steps required is huge.

The PhaseOne A-Series is pretty much the newest, latest and greatest “Most expensive point and shoot in the world”, not only does it capture this title, but it also captures the title of “most expensive mirrorless camera”. It does require manual focusing, however this is aided both by live-view on the camera’s rear screen (and live-view soon to be available in PhaseOne CapturePilot 1.8) as well as via image review on both the cameras rear screen and on iOS devices via CapturePilot. Further mitigating any complications presented by manual focusing are the PhaseOne IQ-series’ premium features including a focus mask available during image review that shows you which part of your image is in focus, as well as flashing highlight warning. Further, with all three of the lenses 23mm, 35mm and 70mm the PhaseOne A-Series can easily be set to a hyperfocal distance (http://www.dofmaster.com) where the focus distance can be calculated and set such that maximum DoF can be achieved at any aperture making shooting a breeze.

Since the PhaseOne A-series is sold as a package is has a number of other advantages. First, since it is delivered as a single package, its 5-year warranty is extended to all components of the package. The Rodenstock lenses are calibrated at the Alpa Factory with their HPF focusing rings which means that they will be as precise as humanly possible. Also the PhaseOne digital back will be shimmed by Alpa. Shimming is a very meticulous process where effectively an offset is created spacing the digital back and the lens just precisely to yield the sharpest possible image. Considering the extremely high-tolerences that Alpa products are manufactured too this is a process where changes are happening at the level of fractions of a millimeter with extremely thin pieces of metal being placed in the digital backs mount to create the required distance for the ultimate image quality for the PhaseOne digital back.

Another great thing is that, while this is a kit, the parts can be used with other camera systems. For instance, if you decide you want more control over your photography, you can opt for an Alpa body with movements, like the STC (stitch travel compact) or SWC (Super wide compact) as well as add additional lenses and accessories for more creative control. Also you can take the IQ2 series digital back off of the PhaseOne A-Series and put it on any Mamiya M mount medium format camera like the PhaseOne 645DF+ and enjoy the full range of autofocus and leaf shutter lenses from PhaseOne and Schneider-Krueznach.

Alpa’s are often compared to fine Swiss-watches or luxury performance automobiles because of their absolutely impeccable mechanics, finishing and attention to details. Alpa’s are well loved by commercial and fine-art photographers for their luxurious feel and absolute precision. Combined with PhaseOne digital backs they can produce some absolutely stunning results.

the PhaseOne A-Series is not a technical camera, it is a compact medium format digital travel camera. If you are looking for a technical camera, you can read my review of the Cambo WRC-400 or my upcoming review of the Arca-Swiss RM3Di. All of these cameras are distributed by my PhaseOne Dealer, Digital Transitions and comprehensive information as well as their proprietary online visualizer application for technical cameras can be accessed through this link.

PDN PhotoPlus 2014 Coverage

Last weekend, I attended PDN PhotoPlus 2014, and recorded a number of videos with various manufacturers that interested me. These include, Digital Transitions (PhaseOne, MamiyaLeaf, Arca-Swiss), Cambo, Alpa, and Arca-Swiss as well as Blazing Editions a print making service. Don’t really have much of a set up for this but I think the videos give a nice look at some of the new products that were announced at Photokina 2014 that we haven’t gotten to see in the flesh yet. If you weren’t able to make it to NYC for PDN PhotoPlus 2014 then I hope these videos will help you get to see and better understand some of the products that where on display.

Capture One 8 Pro Tips from Digital Transitions


My PhaseOne dealer, Digital Transitions (http://www.digitaltransitions.com) and my friend Doug Peterson present 6 tips for the new CaptureOne 8 Pro software from PhaseOne. CaptureOne 8 produces a lot of important workflow and efficiency improvements as well as introducing a updated user interface to Apple’s refined interface in OS X Yosemite. Aside from the features highlighted above some tools have also been improved, however you will come across most of these in the course of your use of the software which can be downloaded here (http://www.digitaltransitions.com/page/capture-one-downloads).

A couple of other notable features are the improved Shadows/Highlight and HDR features as well as the new Black and White / Grain features. Shadows/Highlight controls in capture one have had their algorithms refined to produce more realistic and natural looking results. This is especially apparent when there are bigger exposure differences between the foreground and background (like you might encounter with a landscape).

Generally regarded as a joke, pieces of software that attempt to introduce grain into a digitally converted black and white image (or even a monochromatically captured one) fail to produce anything resembling the true character of the real silver-nitrate grains that make up actual film. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you that PhaseOne has cracked the code for this in their latest software but they have created a very nice feature. Getting overly obsessive about minor details as PhaseOne is want to do, they chose to attempt to create a better, more realistic model for grain in CaptureOne 8. They started by studying the physical grains of film under microscopes, and eventually wound up researching the way that those grains behave in gradients and different lighting situations. From this they created an algorithm that produces much more realistic grain. That being said, its not real grain, and it never will be. However, there are a few situations where I can see this feature being very helpful. For starters, one of the cameras I own and use is the Leica M9 Monochrom, at low ISO’s this camera produces files that are almost “too” clean for certain applications. The way that I generally get around this is that I simply shoot the camera at higher ISO’s where there is some grain introduced, since it is rendered very differently in a monochromatic image and generally gives me the results that I want. However, I am going to be interested in testing out this new feature to see if it yields more pleasing results. Pleasing results in the sense that the image looks more natural, not that it looks like film, but that it looks more natural. This is a very important distinction and is also the other situation where I think that this feature may come in handy. If we have converted a color image into black and white and want to make it look more pleasing and natural this feature will help (I believe) in making interesting results and nice images, but not replicating actual film grain which is entirely different and not something that to date a computer has been able to replicate.

Alpa Switzerland


In an exciting change of pace for the PhotoPlus, Alpa was here again and showing off their full line or products. At Photokina 2014, they presented a number of potentially very interesting mounts for the Alpa FPS (which can be used in conjunction with all of their Alpa 12 cameras including the TC, SWA, SWC, STC, MAX and XY or on its own as a separate camera). These mounts are for a number of different medium format digital lenses. Alpa has had adapters for Canon and Nikon lenses, and the Canon Tilt-Shift’s have been particular favorites of owners of Alpa FPS’s particularly because of the Canon 17mm TS-E’s ability to cover a full medium format digital sensor. These new mouths include Hasselblad H, Rollei 6000, and Contax mounts with electronic communication planned for them in the future to allow for some potentially very interesting control of these electronic lenses which could lead to stepping which would be great for focus stacking.



Rene Rook from Cambo (and also my host when I toured the Cambo factory in the Netherlands) presents the new Cambo Actus miniature view camera. This is an extremely small, extremely rigid view camera platform for both 35mm and medium format mounts. Here it is shown with the Sony A7R and a medium format digital back, both of these configurations are interchangeable on the same camera as well as a number of lenses, there are a number of interesting options for using this camera in conjunction with the Sony A7R since you can use medium format and large format lenses to get a lot of area out of the image circle of larger image circled lenses. And further as a miniature view camera, with a medium format digital back and digital lenses from Schneider-Krueznach and Rodenstock this presents a very compact and portable option for using movements on the go, very tempting in both configurations. I hope to get a sample of this camera soon to review.

Digital Transitions (PhaseOne, MamiyaLeaf, Cambo, Arca-Swiss)


My preferred PhaseOne dealer, Digital Transitions (digitaltransitions.com) was showing the full line of PhaseOne and MamiyaLeaf backs. I asked Lance to help go over some of the differences between the PhaseOne and MamiyaLeaf models, especially since now we have the IQ1 series (including the new CMOS IQ150), the IQ2 series (new CMOS IQ250) as well as a CMOS censored camera from MamiyaLeaf (as well as standard CCD models). Its important to understand the differences between these models to help decide which camera is right for you.

PhaseOne has also relatively recently released the PhaseOne 40-80mm LS f/4.0-5.6 Zoom lens which is an absolutely massive zoom lens that is not to far off in size from the Hasselblad 50-110mm f/3.5-4.5 HC AF Zoom Lens. Hopefully I will be able to do some testing soon, but I have been told that this lens preforms very nicely, this is something that I will be interested to see since zoom lenses are particularly difficult to make. Hasselblad has had some real winners, especially with the Hasselblad 35-90mm f/4-5.6 HCD lens which was one of my favorites for the system when I owned it. 



Arcs-Swiss released a number of extremely exciting products at Photokina 2014. Most excitingly they announced a number of new electronic accessories including two new shutter modules that work with all of their cameras! Arca-Swiss released a number of new products that I will detail below;

- The Arca-Swiss Central Shutter (CS) this is a direct replacement for Copal mechanical shutters which are the industry standard though no longer being made. The Arca-Swiss CS can take Copal 1 and Copal 0 lenses (which covers almost all modern digital lenses) and is controlled by their dEx Controller. The CS can go up to 1/250th of a second with a Copal 1 lens, and higher with a Copal 0 lens (since the opening is smaller). The CS can be used with all Arca-Swiss cameras, including the new Universalis, all R-series technical cameras, and all Arca-Swiss view cameras through their proprietary screw mount used on all of the lens boards for these various cameras.

- The Arca-Swiss Focal Plane Shutter (FP) mounts between the digital back and the camera, and thus can be used on all Arca-Swiss cameras up to 6×8 (possibly 6×9) and tops out at 1/3000th of a second which is very impressive as well. This allows for shutterless lenses to be used like older “vintage” lenses as well as the potential to start being able to use 35mm lenses like Nikon and Canon’s tilt-shift lenses (among others with lens mounts coming soon).

- The Arca-Swiss Cloud DM Wireless Distometer (DM) is a much more compact (and wireless) followup to the eModule Cloud and helps you find the distance you should focus the camera (its effectively a rangefinder). This becomes a powerful tool when coupled with a few of Arca-Swiss’s other new products.

- The Arca-Swiss dEx which includes the Arca-Swiss Remote Control Unit (RCU) and Micro Power Unit (MPU) allows for wireless control of devices attached to the dEx system and will display information from the DM module as well as the FP and CS shutter modules. The MPU is a better pack that will power the whole system, Arca-Swiss is selling a special mount with an AS plate on the bottom so that they system can conveniently be mounted to the bottom of a camera next to the tripod head where it is accessible and out of the way. This system, again, can be used on the Arca-Swiss R-Line, M-Line, and F-Line system cameras as well as the new Universalis.

- The Arca-Swiss Focus Rail Readout (or trolley) is probably my favorite of the new products because of its implications for use with the system as a whole. This is a small item that mounts on the rail of a rail system camera like the M-Line or F-Line and most importantly the new Universalis. It then will communicate with the dEx command module and display the distance that the camera is focused at digital allowing for precise focusing when combined with the DM module.

- The Arca-Swiss Universalis is very similar to the Cambo Actus (though the Universalis is slightly larger, and the Cambo is impressively robust for its smaller size) and also very compact. However a defining difference between these two cameras (for me anyway) is the ability of the Arca-Swiss Universalis to communicate with all the new goodies detailed above from Arca-Swiss. Arca-Swiss’s new products have radically changed the medium format technical market with their modularity and complex set of features which combines for endless possibilities and the most digital control in a sector that was caught between the analog and digital world. Now the Universalis brings all of these benefits in a small package that is compatible with both 35mm cameras as well as medium format digital backs. I actually think that there is a place in the world for both the Cambo Actus and the Arca-Swiss Universalis since they will appeal to people who want different things (as well as those who are already committed to one system or another). I’m very happy about these cameras, because while technical plate cameras are very nice, versatile, and compact nothing beats the control or tactile feedback of a rail camera, and now that these have been effectively miniaturized they allow for themselves to be much more user friendly.

Blazing Editions – Metallic Printing


Immediately behind Digital Transitions Booth (where Arca-Swiss was housed as well) was Blazing Editions (Blazing.com) who offer a number of printing and photographic services but also interestingly a wide array of printing options on Metal. Metal can produce some very interesting effects (which some may see as kitschy) however Blazing Images also offers printing on a metal substrate without the metal showing through and their process (explained in the video) yields some extremely detailed results. Digital Transitions had provided a number of medium format digital files for Blazing Editions to print and show off at PDN PhotoPlus 2014 and the files looked amazing printed. Anecdotally a fun little detail is that Blazing Editions can CNC Machine a photographer’s signature onto the print for a very interesting (and I think very fun affect).


I hope you have enjoyed my PDN PhotoPlus 2014 conference, it was very exciting because there were a number of medium format players there in force and ready to show off their new products that we all lusted after from Photokina 2014. If you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Nikon 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR for Shooting Hummingbirds

Ruby Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Nikon D4 and Nikon 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR @ 1000mm

1/1600s – f/7.1 – ISO 6400

 I apologize for my absence as of late, however I have been working on a number of very large long term projects that I hope will pay off for me and my website in the future. That being said, I have still been shooting (in fact more then I was previously was it seems) and I have a number of exciting reviews coming. I’ll briefly outline some of them at the moment, they include the Lytro Illum and Sony RX1r two new pieces of equipment I have, as well a number of other topics including using the Nikon D800e with tilt-shift lenses, a review of the Arca-Swiss RM3Di, and a review of my experiences as a Nikon shooter, shooting Canon 1Dx’s at the 2014 US Open Tennis championships and sort of in tandem with this a review of Photo Mechanic 5 a very powerful ingestion tool I was introduced to to sort through the 1000′s of pictures I took.

But lets face it, that was all very self aggrandizing and presumptuous as to the number of dedicated followers I have as compares to visitors who found me through google. Your here because well Nikon 800mm enough said right? I don’t own this lens, I rented it because I thought it would be fun to try out for my now annual summer hummingbird shoot at my house in Connecticut. I rented this through Lensrentals.com, I only mention this because they are where I chose to go for all of my online rental needs, I haven’t tried anyone else, but Lensrentals and their support has always been perfect, and to be clear they are not paying me to say that, but they totally should ;). Moving on, this article is going to be pretty short, because its about something pretty specific, this isn’t an overarching review of this lens, but rather a review of my experiences using it for a very specific task, shooting hummingbirds.

Both Canon and Nikon’s (though notably Nikon’s) 800mm lenses are very good, and they better be for their five digit prices. From a little bit of other playing around I did with this lens it offers superior sharpness and exhibits no aberrations to speak of. Unfortunately I shot these images with my Nikon D4, when my D4s arrived about a week later, I can only imagine with its improved AF this lens could have been an even more powerful image making tool in this situation. The Nikon 800mm comes with a very special 1.25x Teleconverter. This is no ordinary teleconverter for a number of reasons. First of all its a weird magnification size (most TC’s are 1.4 / 1.7 / 2) and brings the lens to a clean 1000mm which leaves it with a reasonably sized aperture of effectively f/7.0.  But what really makes this teleconverter stand out is how it is made. The 1.25x teleconverter is build from the same glass, and as if it is part of the Nikon 800mm lens that its been made in tandem with. That means it has been ground and tested as if its elements were elements of the lens itself. It also means DON’T EVER LOSE IT. Firstly, it can never be replaced. You can send back you lens and have a new one made but assume this will be very expensive and a yield less then ideal pairing then the original. The pairing of teleconverter and lens in production is absolutely genius, and something that you can do with a high-price low-volume product like this that makes it really stand out. Aside from being rather poetic, it also means that the image quality of the teleconverter when used in tandem with the its matching Nikon 800mm (also it should be noted, It can’t be used with any other telephoto lenses) yields insane results that you would never expect from a teleconverter. Practically speaking there is absolutely no degradation of image quality or introduction of risk to chromatic aberration when adding this teleconverter like there would be with almost any other teleconverter on almost any other lens. It’s simply stunning, maybe the autofocus is a hair slower but nothing noticeable like when adding other teleconverters.

The title image, is probably my favorite image from this year, and it happened partially by chance. I was attempting to pan with a moving hummingbird (no small feat) and was spraying and praying and upon review later found this really great image, it was in focus, a great position and well lit, triple score! Jumping from last years Nikon 400mm f/2.8 AF-S VR to this years 800mm was a bit of a jump. A 400mm, and even a 600mm lens can be reasonably used on a monopod (not in this situation but speaking generally), however using an 800mm on a monopod is exceedingly difficult for the inexperienced user (me) and it took some getting used to. You working with such a restricted FoV (duh) that sometimes you can get “lost” looking for your subject. Another issue with the 10 degree angle of view is that any slight movements you physically make move the lens (which can lead to the aforementioned problem) but also can make using the lens difficult since its hard to clearly see what your composing and shooting at if your not completely stable. The best solution I have found for this is to place my left hand on the lens hood to add stability. Now I was shooting on a large tripod with a gimbal head, and this was still necessary but worked very effectively.


Ruby Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Nikon D4 and Nikon 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR @ 1000mm

1/1600s –  f/7.1 – ISO 3200

In last years great hummingbird shoot I learned some very good shooting technique through research which I believe is worth a read since it synthesizes a number of online source into what I found to be true from my personal shooting experiences. I didn’t deviate from this technique much this year, other then I added a number of new feeders which helped to bring in more hummingbirds, and luckily a ruby-throated hummingbird which thrilled me since this is what I had wanted from last year but didn’t get. Other then that the system I developed worked pretty well. It’s unfortunate but the best way to get great hummingbird pictures (and I know its clichéd) is to put in the time. More so then just from the practice side of things, when you think about it considering how fast hummingbirds move, and how how long they stay in one place for only a few seconds usually, you have to be there for as many of those ~20 second episodes as possible. Finding out when the hummingbirds are most active for you will be pretty obvious after a day or two, then the only really limiting factor is how long you can spend out there and how long before its too dark for you to shoot at a fast enough shutter speed with good image quality (ISO wise). Hummingbirds seem to be most active in the later afternoon, and early evening. Also apparently they are active in the early morning, but I wouldn’t know because well I’m asleep then). 

In conclusion, is it necessary to use a $20,000 lens and an $8,0000 camera to get images of hummingbirds? no. But lets face it, its fun and it yields some unique results. There are many examples out there of people accomplishing amazing results with much more affordable equipment, most of which are as good or better then some of my images. Like anything specialization helps and if you commit yourself to it with whatever gear you have you can get amazing results. Not does a super-telephoto lens help? in my estimation absolutely. Does an advanced autofocus system in a Nikon D4 help? absolutely, but people once shot images of hummingbirds with manual focus lenses, so remember that whenever you question whether you can do this with your equipment. Buying a super-telephoto lens isn’t necessary (and 90% of the year would gather dust for me) but renting one is good fun and can also let you get some great images; I’m a strong proponent of encouraging people do try and rent things so that they can experience these sort of things for themselves. These sort of lenses can often seem out of reach however renting lets you access them and get some great experiences and most importantly some great images!

The Story Behind “Bliss” the Iconic Background for Windows XP


I’ve been very busy lately and I didn’t have time to share my thoughts about this when it launched, but this video points out a number of very interesting things about cameras. The Image was taken with a Mamiya RZ67 and Fuji Film on a tripod, near the photographers home, and was never was delivered without any retouching or editing.

The photographer Charles O’Rear believes that possibly the most recognizable image and most viewed image in the world, wouldn’t have been possible if he were using a 35mm SLR. While there are perpetual debates about the value of medium format photography in todays digital world, we can certainly all agree that in the world of film, bigger is always better, and that the larger film size of a 6×7 negative yielded the incredible detail, clarity and dynamic range present in this iconic image.

For some reason, people often forget in the digital age, that larger sensors still have more dynamic range and an innate ability to take better pictures in certain situations. People compare the Nikon D800(e) to $60,000 cameras from PhaseOne which is not right. In a setting where the the PhaseOne is capable of taking a good picture, it will outperform the D800 100% of the time, I will tell you that right now. However, you’ll notice a big caveat to that statement being “[where the camera] is capable of taking a good picture”, yes medium format digital cameras have a lot of limitations both because of their sensor and the relatively outdated camera bodies that they are mounted on. The Nikon D800 shouldn’t be compared to the PhaseOne IQ280, because really, it compliments it. If one were to draw a venn diagram and look at areas where the two cameras overlap, the IQ280 will take a better picture. However, if you look at what the IQ280 cannot do, you see that the D800 offers the most resolution. If you want to use f/1.4 glass for portraits or lowlight, well then the Nikon D800 is your resolution king, if you want to just shoot in low light, it has the most resolution in a camera with high ISO capabilities, if you want to shoot telephoto images with the most resolution, these are all areas where a medium format back, whether it be from PhaseOne, MamiyaLeaf, Pentax, Leica or Hasselblad falls short, and for the foreseeable future will fall short.

I think this video serves as a nice reminder, that different formats exist for different reasons and that there are times when you want to use one format versus another. People certainly become polarized with discussions of modern cameras of different formats because they are expensive purchases, the person who bought a D800 wants to defend their purchase to themselves, and so does the person with the medium format digital back, and it is unlikely that either of these people will concede that the other side is correct. Well in reality, they are both wrong, it depends on the situation and what you are trying to accomplish. Interestingly, this argument doesn’t exist around film, no one is going to question that a 8×10 negative trumps a 4×5 negative which is better then a 6×45 which is better then a 35mm and people used the camera which allowed them to take the best image possible under the circumstances given the strengths and limitations of different film formats, camera brands, and camera systems, and aspect ratio’s based on their situation and this is something that we all need to remember still holds true in the digital world, despite wider differences in price and fewer sensor formats.

Leica T-Type – First Look and Overview


Above you can view my video overview of the new Leica T-Type camera where I go over the camera, accessories, and features as well as an in-depth look at how the new touchscreen works on this camera. Below you can read some more of my thoughts on this camera and view sample images as well as download full-resolution sample images from this camera to further scrutinize.

Full-resolution sample images can be viewed and downloaded via my Flickr page here and RAW sample images will be available by Dropbox tomorrow.

General Thoughts

On the whole when rumors of this camera started surfacing, I was disappointed, though it was not un-expected. As leaked product images came to light I became even more concerned. As a purist, this camera is in no way similar to Leica’s heritage, and I don’t like this camera. With that out of the way, I will say that this is a great interchangeable lens compact system camera which is over-engineered in a number of respects. The Body feels extremely good in the hand and the 45 minutes of post CNC finishing are much appreciated especially with the hand grip. One other small critique is of the two multifunction dials on the top of the camera, they don’t have hard stops which makes it difficult to know when you are really changing things with them, not a big issue but something to take note of and something that you have to focus on when you are in the field. Unlike many Leica cameras, the rear screen on this camera is excellent (we will get to it as a touch screen later), images are displayed crisply and when zoomed in focus and camera shake are easily diagnosable. The screen is also highly visible moderately harsh daylight (conditions tested in).

This is good since the EVF isn’t great, at 2.4 million (I believe) it’s relatively up to date, however (and this may be personal prejudice against EVF’s but) the EVF still isn’t great in terms of responsiveness or detail though it is usable. While some may think that I am holding EVF’s to too high of a standard, I don’t believe I am. Maybe we have been spoiled by the responsiveness and clarity of optical viewfinders…(withering sarcasm)…but I will not accept EVF’s until they are as responsive and detailed as my eyes are physically capable of perceiving, and I have no doubt that in my life time we will get to this point…and I will still prefer optical viewfinders. There is just a difference between looking at a little TV screen and looking at the real world through either an SLR or a Rangefinder which physically connects and grounds you as the photographer in reality in a way that EVF’s will never be able to do. Diopter adjustments and GPS bring included in the articulating $595 Leica Visoflex EVF are nice touches which can help to justify the high price of this particular viewfinder over some viewfinders, like say for the Sony RX1r (which I am considering purchasing) that offer very basic features at a premium; but here you get some nice features along with basic EVF functionality which is sometimes required when the screen could potentially fail in harsh sunlight.

Image quality is pretty great out of this camera as you can see below, it is certainly a step up from the X2 and Leica X Vario (which I review here) and you can see my thoughts on the ISO range as well. I didn’t really futz around with the settings too much on the camera however there are two functionality based critiques I will offer. Firstly, there is the fact that (like the Leica X-Vario) you cannot just shoot RAW images on this camera and you are forced to choose between RAW + Fine or RAW + Super Fine (or whatever it says) which is annoying since this takes up extra-card space. The reason Leica has chosen to do this is because it is much easier to convert a JPEG to be viewable in playback on the back of the camera then it is to convert a RAW file to be viewable in playback. However, this is simply an issue of firmware and processing capability, with a nice 16GB of internal memory there is certainly space to temporarily store these files and I am sure the camera has the requisite processing capability. Consequently this is unacceptable laziness that I would have never expected from a Leica product. I know I am making a big deal out of a small thing, but again when you are paying top dollar you shouldn’t accept anything less then perfection. This issue could easily be fixed in firmware. Second, now let’s talk about the touchscreen.

I’m the kind of person that likes dials and buttons for everything, be it in my car or on my camera. I don’t like digital displays and touch screens, because, well … they will all eventually fail either the physical component or the computer driving it. This is why I prefer the manual nature of say a Hasselblad 503CW, or a Land Rover Defender 90. But I know that that is not the reality we live in and for things like this, it really doesn’t matter, since the components put into this camera are great and there will be absolutely no issues 99.999% of the time. Beyond that the touchscreen is very responsive and easy to use. Once you learn the menu system and how to set up and customize your camera home screen it is very enjoyable to use this feature in the field. I found that most of the time while I was shooting this camera, I could use my right hand thumb to access all of the rear menu’s and change settings while comfortably still holding the camera at shooting distance in front of me (when shooting it like a point and shoot). The novelty value of the touchscreen is high, and I really don’t think that it will wear off (especially not for anyone who is buying this camera). The touchscreen on this camera, along with the menu system design is the best touchscreen implementation in a high-end digital camera yet. It is daring and respectable that Leica chose to fully commit to this strategy, since there are no buttons on the camera. My PhaseOne IQ180 is a “touchscreen” camera but it still has 4 buttons which are used to navigate some parts of the camera. These buttons are very helpful, but dictate the way that the camera is set-up. It is very well implemented on the Leica T-Type. The only issue lies when browsing through the images on playback you have to be a bit careful with the way that you scroll through the images but this is something which can easily be fixed in future firmware since we can see that the touchscreen is pleasantly responsive when panning and zooming on an image.

Now onto the lenses. Focusing is improved on this camera over the Leica X-Vario, but it still isn’t insanely fast, but it is very usable. My biggest complaint about these lenses is the fact that they do not have aperture rings. Leica lenses are supposed to have aperture rings. plain and simple. This is one of the unique features which helps to make the user feel that they are part of the camera when shooting the Leica M system, there is just something about it and it’s an iconic feature that I think that Leica should be following through with in all of their cameras. The 18-56mm lens is basically the lens straight off of the Leica X-Vario which as I observe in the video is fine since this is an ILC camera, and if you need something faster you can swap it out for the prime if you choose to buy both lenses. The zoom ring still goes in the opposite direction to what most people are used to, like on my Nikon zoom lenses. Curiously, the 18-56mm Vario-Elmar-T has a butterfly lens hood unlike the hood available for the Leica X-Vario, don’t read into that too much I guess, because as I said in my X-Vario review, flaring was never an issue when reviewing the lens sans lenshood. Using M-lenses is a bit of a moot point in my opinion because of the crop factor. However, if you want to use them the functionality is there, personally I think this is the wrong way to make an argument that you are linked to your heritage since most M-users won’t want to use this camera, and most users of this camera (myself included) would only want to shoot it with autofocus lenses anyway. I look forward to seeing what optics Leica comes up with in the future for the Leica T-Type.

The new strap system is actually very nice and very sturdy, personally I would wait for a leather strap for the camera but the included rubber strap is pretty good on it’s own. Note, there is nothing proprietary about the Leica-provided tool for releasing the strap and a paperclip or really anything will do as long as you can put it in the hole and apply pressure.

On the whole the Leica T-Type is a very pleasing camera, and if you want an interchangeable lens system camera from Leica with automated features and good optics then this is the way for you to go.

 Leica 23mm f/2.0 Summicron-T

Sample image taken with the Leica 23mm Summicron-T on the new Leica T-Type APS-C Camera

Close Focus Distance

Leica T-Type with 23mm Summicron-T – 1/320 – f/2.8 – ISO 400

The Leica 23mm f/2.0 Summicron-T is a welcome addition to this system. The lenses Launched with the Leica T-Type mirror the focal lengths available on the Leica X2 and Leica X-Vario. However, with the case of the 23mm lens (a 35mm equivalent on full-frame) the lens has received an ASPH make-over while also becoming an f/2.0 versus the relatively slow (only in the world of Leica) f/2.8 Elmarit lens on Leica X2. This lens performs very well, however in harsh sunlight you will see some chromatic aberrations. Also, there will be green / cyan halo’s in some situations (particularly with strong highlights) in the bokeh of images. All of these issues are correctable with the chromatic aberration correction tools in either Photoshop ACR or Lightroom 5 (included with this camera).

There is one curious thing to note about this 23mm lens. While the lens is rated at f/2.0, when it is at its minimum focusing distance (~0.3m) the lens is an f/2.8 lens, backing up a little bit, the lens will become an f/2.5 and then an f/2.2 lens and then finally an f/2.0 lens. This is a little bit deceptive and something that users should take note of. This is not anything particularly unique to this lens, other lenses like the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 G macro lens suffers from a similar difficulty which is something that you must be aware of when shooting. Now, with this particular lens, this is not an issue since its already an ultra-fast f/2.0 lens but it is something that you should be aware of.

This lens is being lauded as being a competitor with Leica’s 50mm f/2.0 APO-Summicron lens, without performing any scientific tests, I can say that this lens is very sharp, with nice detail resolution and a fast aperture. However, I will leave it to the experts to conclude whether this lens is in the same class as the Leica M lens.

ISO Series

The Leica T-Type offers an improved ISO range over earlier German made Leica CMOS APS-C offerings with results being very good up to ISO 3200. ISO 3200 in some situations can be better or worse then in others, but is generally pretty good. ISO 6400 will only due in a pinch and you won’t be getting the best results from this camera, however for a social situation they are more then adequate, they would improve with a black and white conversion.  at ISO 12800, vertical banding is very obvious and generally speaking images are unusable and very blotchy and soft with high amounts of color and pattern noise. These 12800 results are what you can expect from any camera when its sensor sensitivity is maxed out, however I will say that we have come a long way in terms of ISO performance and if your documenting a Cloverfield monster, or like trying to record someone committing a murder (Rear Window or Blowup, take your pick), or photographing the toppling of the Berlin Wall or something else momentous these 12800 results will be usable, but certainly not for any fine art print purposes.

Over on my Flickr page, there are a couple of other high ISO comparisons.

ISO Sample images taken with the Leica T-Type at the Leica Store Soho NYC

ISO 100

Leica T-Type with 18-56mm Vario-Elmar-T @ 18mm ~ 1/40 – f/3.5

ISO Sample images taken with the Leica T-Type at the Leica Store Soho NYC

ISO 200

Leica T-Type with 18-56mm Vario-Elmar-T @ 18mm ~ 1/80 – f/3.5

ISO Sample images taken with the Leica T-Type at the Leica Store Soho NYC

ISO 400

Leica T-Type with 18-56mm Vario-Elmar-T @ 18mm ~ 1/200 – f/3.5

ISO Sample images taken with the Leica T-Type at the Leica Store Soho NYC

 ISO 800

Leica T-Type with 18-56mm Vario-Elmar-T @ 18mm ~ 1/400 – f/3.5

ISO Sample images taken with the Leica T-Type at the Leica Store Soho NYC

ISO 1600

Leica T-Type with 18-56mm Vario-Elmar-T @ 18mm ~ 1/800 – f/3.5

ISO Sample images taken with the Leica T-Type at the Leica Store Soho NYC

ISO 3200

Leica T-Type with 18-56mm Vario-Elmar-T @ 18mm ~ 1/1250 – f/3.5

ISO Sample images taken with the Leica T-Type at the Leica Store Soho NYC

ISO 6400 

Leica T-Type with 18-56mm Vario-Elmar-T @ 18mm ~ 1/3200 – f/3.5

ISO Sample images taken with the Leica T-Type at the Leica Store Soho NYC

ISO 12800

Leica T-Type with 18-56mm Vario-Elmar-T @ 18mm ~ 1/4000 – f/3.5


Dynamic Range  

Sample Image from the new Leica T-Type APS-C Camera from the Leica Store SoHo in NYC

Leica T-Type with 18-56mm Vario-Elmar-T @ 18mm ~ 1/1250 – f/3.5 – ISO 100 

The Leica T-Type’s new 16mp APS-C CMOS sensor is a clear improvement over the Leica X-Vario’s sensor, as you can see from the very nice dynamic range available in the Leica T-Type’s RAW files, in this file you can see that I brought back both the shadows and highlight’s using the recovery sliders in Adobe Photoshop CC Camera Raw to yield an image with very nice tonal qualities. The sky was seemingly blown out and highlight recovery was fully applied, and after a vibrance adjustment color was restored. 

Sample Image from the new Leica T-Type APS-C Camera from the Leica Store SoHo in NYC

Leica T-Type with 23mm Summicron-T ~ 1/3200 – f/2.0 – ISO 100

In this next image, taken with the 23mm Summicron-T, we have a much harsher contrast between the dark and light areas being both almost completely black and blown out respectively. However, we can see that there is a large amount of recovery possible in the highlights, and while the shadows had less able to be recovered we were able to do a very decent job and be able to use a lot of this image without any imperfections.