Monday, November 30, 2009

Leica Noctilux Comparison, 0.95 vs. 1.0

Due to the scarcity of M9, I've not yet been able to allocate one of these for myself. I was lucky enough to have one loaned to me for the weekend from Leica, via Tom Brichta, the representative from Northern California. I have been yearning to do a side by side comparison of these lenses for quite some time and last weekend was my opportunity. The results are as follows.

Reference: The lenses tested were the 50mm0.95 Asph #4085786, from Nov '09 delivery and a 50mm1.0 Noctilux-M #3738627, which has been 6-Bit updated by Leica. All images were made with a tripod and self timer delayed activation. Critical focus was insured by the use of the 1.4x magnifier. The RAW files were converted to TIFF in Photoshop using "As Shot" white balance and "Default" settings.

For the first set of images, the point of focus was the highlight on the wire corner. Both lenses were tested at minimum focus distance of 40" and at maximum aperture. The 50mm0.95 Asph is shown on the left and the 50mm1.0 is shown on the right.

Click the images to open full screen

Overall, the images look similar. Both lenses have comparable Bokeh. If you've not heard the term before, Bokeh refers to how the lens renders the out of focus areas. The Noctilux lenses are renowned for how much separation can be imparted by opening up the lens. From this and other images that I have seen, the traditional look of the Noctilux is maintained in the new lens, which should be a comforting note to current non-Asph Noctilux users.

The above images are shown at 100%. The 0.95 Asph is clearly sharper with better contrast. Upon secondary inspection of the images, I thought the the 50mm1.0 may have been slightly back focused. This was exceptionally perplexing as I was extremely careful focusing. Returning to the full screen images, you can note that the debris on the glass table is in the same plane of focus on both images, so I am concluding that this is simply a difference in how the two lenses resolve focus and also the difference between f0.95 and f1.0. If the comparison is as accurate as I believe it is, this is much more of a difference than I expected to see. Photographing with these lenses at maximum aperture and minimum focus distance definitely accentuates the subtle differences in the two lenses.

The next set of photos were made at infinity focus at f8.0 with lens detection enabled. I wanted to see what these looked like if you wanted to use it under more normal conditions. There is a slight difference in the auto metering as the 50mm0.95 image has more sky, but otherwise they look pretty similar.

Upon close inspection, you can see that there is a bit more contrast in the 50mm0.95.

This was a test to see how each lens compared with 6-Bit (Lens Detection) turned on and turned off. The first set is the 50mm0.95 Asph and the second set is the 50mm1.0. Both were taken at /250th sec at f8.0

As you can see, the 50mm0.95 has subtle vignetting, but the 50mm1.0 is much more pronounced. In some occasions, the vignetting is nice for black and white images and it would not at all be noticed if you were using this on an M8. In any case, if you have an earlier Noctilux that is not 6-Bit, I would have it converted. Leica also changes the lens mount which insures that it focuses properly on the digital M cameras.

The next test was to see if there was any perceivable depth of field or sharpness difference on the 50mm0.95 Asph lens from f0.95 to f1.0.

Here are images from the 50mm0.95 and the 50mm1.0, both are at maximum aperture.

Here are two more sets, comparing both lenses at f1.0 and f1.4.

Conclusion: To my eye, the new 50mm0.95 Asph retains the traditional Noctilux look, while having a slight increase in contrast and color saturation. The lens has substantially less vignetting and renders fine details more sharply at open apertures. Another nice feature of the new lens, which was not previously mentioned, is that the Asph has a shorter focus throw, so is it quicker to focus. The lens does seem to have better focusing accuracy, wide open, at minimum focus distance. While either lens would make a fine addition to any M system, the new lens is clearly an improvement. At $9995.00, the 50mm0.95 is definitely an investment, but certainly one which will be enjoyed!

Sean Cranor
President, Camera West

P.S. A few non test environment snapshots...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Underwater shooting and the odd French accent.

We can certainly credit Jacques-Yves Cousteau for a lot of things. A greater appreciation for our aquatic environment inhabitants, a sense of adventure in exploration of our planet earth and last but not least, some terrible but very amusing attempts at producing a French accent of which you cant deny not having tried at some point. 

In all of his travels and exploration, Jacques-Yves was a real innovator. He developed equipment out of necessity, which often lead to the creation of a entirely new design, which was quickly adopted by fellow explorers and spread to mainstream use. Jacque's team indeed invented the Scuba (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) system which is now in use world wide.

At this point you may be wondering how this all relates to cameras, because in the end we are a camera store and that’s what we talk about. In all his travels and exploration Jacques needed to take pictures. In order to share the underwater environments with the rest of the world, his design input was utilized for development of the first commercial waterproof camera, which eventually led to the Nikonos-V 35mm film camera.

The design of the original camera was sold to Nikon and then re-branded to Nikonos, which then saw its first market appearance in 1963. The Nikonos was an instant favorite with professionals and amateurs alike and was a real leader in the market for many years.

What really set the Nikonos apart from the rest was its lenses, which were designed specifically for underwater use and would not in fact work when in open air. Later Nikon produced a set of lenses that would work in both environments. There is speculation that even today there still is no rival to their underwater performance. Some would also argue there is still not a waterproof camera that has the classic styling and looks of the Nikon. Perhaps some credit should be attributed to its French origins. Nikon finally  wrapped up production and development of these popular units in 2001.

Some information sourced from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leica M3 with 35mm Lens Goggles

, originally uploaded by Camera West.

Fun Fun Fun. Hal here playing with a Leica M3 with a 35mm 2.8 Sumaron. We get to see a wide range of new and used Leica Lens and Cameras in both of our stores. What a great place to work.

Interesting Bits and Bytes

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Leica Day, and what a day it was...

On the 13th of October 2009 Camera West, Walnut Creek, California, was proud and honored to have a very special demonstration of the latest cameras from German camera manufacturer Leica. With the release of the M9 and coming soon the X1 and S2, Leica has indeed been productive. Both the Leica rep and the Leica factory Product Specialist, were on hand to answer any questions as well as show off the features of these three cameras. 
I was given the chance to have a hands on experience and I must say this is a fairly impressive array of very capable cameras. They all serve a different purpose, but they do all share common traits of exceptional build, processing and image quality. You can read a thousand reviews of the specifics of each of these cameras online but when it all boils down these are all wonderful and very unique cameras of which only Leica is capable of making.

I love the weight and feel of the S2. Its quick and quiet and feels very reliable with an easy menu set up on the rear LCD display. The design is simple, yet well thought out. The dials and controls all are well placed without any nonsensical icons or images to "help" with navigation.
The X1 was also a lot of fun to shoot and it finally helped me to understand the reason and advantage of shooting with single focal length lens on the camera. There is no need for anything else. Its shoots fast (f/2.8) and clear. If you want more focal length range then step up to the M9. This is a great little pull out and shoot camera, which works with your creative side while still producing exceptional Leica imaging. 
I can't say too much about the M9 that has not already been said.  I will say that I believe the introduction of this full frame rangefinder camera Leica have definitely upped the ante in terms of what is offered in the digital camera market. Watch this space as I believe this will definitely be the the start of a new direction for digital cameras.  

Leica Systems Preview, Monterey

October 12th 2009. Our Leica Systems Preview was very successful, with a good turnout and a wealth of new information. The new systems were presented by Leica’s own Northern California Leica Representative Thomas Brichta, and U.S. Product Specialist Justin Stailey from New Jersey. Our Leica day was off to tremendous start around Noon with the presentation of the prototype Leica X1 straight from Germany. Accompanying the X1 in the line of demo units was the all new S2, and a pair of M9s in Steel Grey and Black Paint finishes. From Noon to six our customers and staff had some real hands-on time and questions answered on the new products.

At 6:30 we headed over to Montrio Bistro, a world class restaurant with our good friend and Executive Chef, Tony Baker. To start off we had another showing of the systems and general discussion with both Tom and Justin, while enjoying some of Montrio’s fine appetizers. Justin had brought a Leica Prodovit D-1200 projector for his formal presentation of the new Leica systems. The presentation started with an in-depth technology review of the M9 camera and Leica’s pixel filling micro-lens technology, followed by the X1 and S2 presentations. Wrapping up the evening, we reviewed Images produced from all three systems. By far the most intriguing system of the event was the S2. The files from the camera were nothing I have ever seen from a digital camera!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A brave and somewhat exhilarating new world

With the introduction of video into the world of DSLRs we are seeing a completely new direction for creative output. Imagine the future this opens for people of all backgrounds to use video capable Canon or Nikon bodies to produce cinema quality video telling their stories in their own unique way. This is a very exciting time indeed.

No longer will we be limited to simple automated point and shoot video from our small low resolution cameras. Think about the possibilities of shooting with your fast 50mm f/1.4 or 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom and perhaps what you can do with full manual focus while filming. All those features we have learned to love such as shallow depth of field and bokeh or selective focus suddenly become available for integration into movie making. The mind boogles at the potential this holds.

Now if your still with me and I have you somewhat interested and perhaps even a little excited by this then please check out some videos I have enjoyed care of Youtube.

Canon Shooters:

Nikon Shooters:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Leica D-Lux 4 Safari.*

The new and limited edition Leica D-Lux 4. With only 6000 units world wide this limited edition camera offers great versatility, and exceptional image quality all in a convenient size. Great for your next expedition where ever it may lead you.More at Leica's Flickr page.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Leica X1, M9 and S2 System Preview

We are pleased to host Justin Stailey, Product Specialist from Leica Camera, at Monterey on Oct 12th and to Walnut Creek on Oct 13th. We will have on hand a prototype X1 camera, specially sent from Leica AG, for our event. We will also have a second version prototype S2 system for review as well as production version M9's. This is a rare opportunity to see all of these cameras at one time, before their market release!

The evening presentation will be shown with Leica's new Pradovit D-1200 digital projector. This will be busy event and evening space is limited, so RSVP will be greatly appreciated. We look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, October 2, 2009


Welcome to the new Camera West Blog site!

We will begin posting in the next week and look forward to providing you with information for new products, upcoming workshops and for personal product reviews.

Sean Cranor
President, Camera West