Leica M7 Review

This is a review of the Leica M7 TTL .72 rangefinder film camera that I used with the Leica 35mm f/2.0 Summicron M Aspherical Manual Focus Lens. I had the two for about a month and had a chance to shoot with the Leica gear in different conditions and shoots. Prior to the M7, I never had a chance to shoot with any Leica gear, but heard so much about them from other photographers and industry peers. So I decided to give Leica a try and see how it would fit my film photography needs. Below is a summary of my findings with the camera.

Leica M7

1) Initial Impressions

I was so excited when the Leica M7 came in the mail.  I put up a post on Instagram and Facebook with an image of the camera and most of my friends commented that they were jealous. I noticed that people regard Leica very highly. So, I was excited to see what all the hype was about.

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High-End Mirrorless Camera Comparison

In this follow-up article to the mirrorless camera comparison, I will be comparing high-end options available on the market today from different manufacturers. While the mirrorless market has not shown healthy growth in the US and Europe lately, it is just a matter of time before the new technology makes its way into our daily lives and starts replacing lower-end/small sensor DSLRs. High cost is still an issue for now, but considering that mirrorless cameras use far less components than DSLRs, we will soon start seeing them at very attractive prices. In fact, many mirrorless camera models already have seen significant price decreases (remember the ridiculous Nikon 1 V1 $299 price drop?) and we will be seeing a lot more of that in the next few years. In this particular article, I would like to start off by comparing the top of the line mirrorless cameras on the market, specifically designed for professionals and photo enthusiasts that look for the best image quality, features, autofocus performance and a solid lens selection. Please note that the below comparisons are only for mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Also, please keep in mind that some of the benchmarks presented in this article are very subjective, based on our prior experience using the cameras and their published specifications.

High-End Mirrorless Cameras #1Fujifilm X-T1Nikon 1 V2Olympus OM-D E-M1Panasonic Lumix GH4
* Denotes PL Subjective Rating
Lens MountFuji XNikon 1Micro 4/3Micro 4/3
Announcement DateJan 2014Oct 2012Sep 2013Feb 2014
Sensor Size (Diagonal)28.3mm15.9mm21.7mm21.7mm
Megapixels16.3 MP14.2 MP16.3 MP16.05 MP
Image StabilizationLensLensBodyLens
Autofocus SystemHybridHybridHybridContrast
Movie Recording1920×1080 @ 60p1920×1080 @ 60i1920×1080 @ 30p4096×2160 @ 24p
Native Lenses Available12111619
Third Party Lenses803330
Weather SealingYesNoYesYes
Image Quality (10)*8566
Autofocus Speed (5)*5555
Image Stabilization (5)*4454
Manual Focus (5)*5355
System Compactness (5)*4455
EVF Mil Dots / Quality (5)*2.36 / 51.44 / 42.36 / 52.36 / 5
Build Quality (5)*5555
Design and UI (5)*5454
Manufacturer LinkFujifilm X-T1Nikon 1 V2OM-D E-M1Lumix GH4
Price (B&H)$1,299$796$1,399$1,698

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Mirrorless Camera Comparison

A number of our readers have been asking our team about our recommendations on different mirrorless cameras. With so many different options on the market today, choosing a mirrorless camera can get very confusing. In the new series of articles, we will compare all the options on the market today starting from entry-level, mid-level to high-end. In this particular article, I would like to start off by comparing mirrorless camera systems that are available today from different manufacturers. This below charts will be updated periodically with new / updated information. Please note that the below comparisons are only for mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Discontinued systems such as Pentax K-01 and Ricoh GXR are not included. The list is sorted alphabetically and had to be split into two parts to fit. Also, please keep in mind that some of the benchmarks presented in this article are very subjective, based on our prior experience using the cameras.

Mirrorless Systems #1Canon EOS MFujifilm XFLeica MNikon 1Olympus M43
* Denotes PL Subjective Rating
Lens MountCanon EF-MFuji XLeica MNikon 1Micro 4/3
Announcement DateOct 2012Jan 2012Mar 2004Oct 2011Jun 2009
Mount Diameter58mm42mm44mm40mm38mm
Sensor Size (Diagonal)26.8mm28.3mm43.0mm15.9mm21.7mm
Flange Distance18mm17.7mm27.80mm17mm20mm
Image StabilizationLensLensN/ALensBody
Autofocus SystemHybridHybridN/AHybridHybrid
Autofocus Speed *34N/A55
Native Lenses Available312261116
Third Party Lenses3839033
Total Lenses Available620651149
System Compactness *44345
Image Quality *45534
Top Model (Manuf. Link)Canon EOS MFuji X-Pro1Leica MNikon 1 V2OM-D E-M1
Top Model Price (B&H)$339$1,199$6,950$796$1,399

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What Makes Exotic Lenses So Special?

This is a part two to my “why are some lenses so expensive?” article that I wrote yesterday. I already explained the difference between consumer and professional-level lenses in the first post, so now it is time to talk about exotic lenses. With so many exotic lenses on the market today, some of which seem to be in relatively high demand (at least judging by their lack of availability), one might wonder about what makes them so special when compared to everything else. This post is not meant to be technical or basic – I think you can get most of that from the first article. Instead, I want to focus on craftsmanship, price, perceived value and niche marketing – the main drivers behind exotic lenses.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 vs Nikon 35mm f/1.4 vs Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 vs Rokinon 35mm f/1.4

I once had a conversation with a photography veteran, who was trying to convince me that the new Nikkor and Canon lenses lack “soul”, with their plastic barrels, rubber focus/zoom rings and industrial “mainstream” designs. I disagreed, because I was blown away by the performance of new generation lenses and I just did not care about everything else. Plus, the notion of a lens having a soul just disturbed me and I remember thinking how ridiculous it was even to think about such things. But as time passed by and I got a chance to experience some of the rare and older optics, I started to understand what the photographer was trying to tell me. Most modern lenses do feel as if they are just taken from a conveyor line, where thousands of other lenses are made exactly the same way with little intervention. Older lenses were hand-crafted, one by one, and each lens was unique in its own way. And that was the beauty of it, because you never knew what you got – it was a game of random cards.

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Leica X Vario Announcement

Today Leica announced the new X Vario compact camera with a fixed Vario Elmar 18-46mm f/3.5-6.4 zoom lens. Sporting a 16.1 MP CMOS sensor, this camera comes with a similar sensor used on Leica’s X2 compact camera. The major difference between the two is the lens – the X series have the fixed Elmarit 24mm f/2.8 lens, while the new X Vario has a 18-46mm zoom lens. Just like the X1/X2, the X Vario does not have a built-in viewfinder, but you can get an optional EVF separately. The X Vario adds 1080p video recording support @ 30p and you can buy all kinds of accessories, from leather strap to beautiful leather case to “complement the elegance of the X Vario”, as Leica states. The camera has a price tag of $2,850, something one would expect from the “boutique” Leica.

Leica X Vario

With such feature-rich cameras as Fuji X100s (APS-C), Nikon Coolpix A, Canon G1X and Ricoh GR that are much cheaper and better, you might be wondering what Leica is thinking by introducing the X Vario to the market. Even the full-frame Sony RX1 at this point costs less than the X Vario. On top of that, the new Vario Elmar 18-46mm f/3.5-6.4 is a joke – the lens is equivalent to a 28-70mm lens and the slow aperture of f/3.5-6.4 just makes this camera a glorified point and shoot. Forget about being able to isolate subjects with this lens, especially on the long end: the f/6.4 aperture on the long end is equivalent to f/9.6 on a full-frame camera.

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The Question of Leica

Leica has recently introduced a couple of new cameras and a lens. Now, the large sensor (APS-C sized, 1.5x crop factor, much like those of Nikon DX, Sony NEX, Samsung NX and some other cameras) compact Leica X2 is hardly going to receive all that much attention and admiration, mainly due to some, by today’s standards, rather pitiful specifications. Think about it – the conservative Leica has fitted the X2 with a 6-7 year old LCD screen (2.7″, 230.000 dot), slow 24mm f/2.8 lens (the Fujifilm X100 has a 23mm f/2 lens) and a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000s. All this would not be so bad for those wanting simplicity for photography’s sake – mind you, I’m all for less gadgetry and more photography itself. But then there’s the price of $1,995. Two thousand dollars will get you a fixed focal length lens fitted compact camera, and nothing else. It looks good, yes. It probably feels good, too. And yet it’s a compact camera that doesn’t even have a viewfinder (unless you want the optional EVF, which is likely going to be mighty expensive, too), for a lot of money. In short – probably not worth it, unless you really love that red dot. Fujifilm X100, anyone?

And then there’s the new M.

Leica M-Monochrome Front View

…no. It still doesn’t work as you would expect it to, does it? At least not at first glance – it’s not exactly new as such. Different – yes, new – hardly. Apart from taking sharper B&W only images with no Bayer interpolation, Leica M-Monochrom is the same camera as the M9-P, which is the same camera as the 3-year old M9, which, apart from being digital, is very close to what a film M7 or MP is like. And all of these are mighty expensive. You can buy a D4 for M-Monochrom money, easy. With a AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G lens. And a memory card or two. Want a simple Leica branded lens to put on that brand new M body? A 50mm f/1.4 Summilux will set you back another $3,995.00. Truly, properly expensive.

But then…that is the point. That is the way of Leica. Let me explain.

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