Leica and the Alternative


My name is Ajit Menon and I am a hobbyist photographer from New York City. I started shooting seriously in the summer of 2012 when I procured the Nikon D800. The shift from casual amateur to serious hobbyist is itself an interesting story; however this article is focused more on a subtle shift in focus over the last couple of months and beginning to shoot both with a camera I was (until now) too snobbish to accept and also more casual subject matter which I found hard to fit into my (perceived) style of photography.

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Photokina 2014: Leica

Leica M-P (Typ 240)_Controls

With most Photokina announcements behind us, it is a good time to look back and overview some of the new products we have not yet covered, namely Leica. As I expected, the new Leica M Edition 60 spawned quite a lot of differing opinions. But it’s not the only camera the legendary German manufacturer has brought to our attention and, whilst none are cheap, the other products are considerably more affordable. There’s the film Leica M-A, a new Summicron-S 100mm f/2 lens for the medium format S system and a few smaller format digital Leica models. Let’s glance through them in more detail.

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The Unorthodox Leica

Leica M Edition 60_Left

Most modern camera makers have already embraced the fact that, at this day and age, providing a tool just for photography is not enough. A camera needs to do video, and really rather well at that. Connectivity is also a big deal these days with WiFi being the very least that is asked for. Bluetooth is slowly making its way in, too, and many raised eyebrows appear due to the lack of built-in GPS, something that’s been available on the cheapest of smartphones for years now. No manufacturer is brave (or stupid, or both) enough to go back to their purely photographic roots. The boldest move I’ve seen in recent years was the Nikon Df with all the “pure photography” campaign, and all they did was add some more analogue controls and remove video capability which, I am fairly certain, could be added via a simple firmware update. Not that I want to undermine that camera, far from it. Merely say that it is very much a 21st century product packed with features you may or may not use. No manufacturer is brave enough to go back to the very simplest things that are needed to capture an image and nothing else. Not even Fujifilm – under the gorgeous retro skin of X-mount cameras lies the very latest technology.

Wait. I think I may be wrong when I say there is not one such manufacturer. Leica M Edition 60, anyone?

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Leica M7 Review

Leica M7

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.

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High-End Mirrorless Camera Comparison

Fuji X-T1 vs Olympus OM-D E-M1

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.

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Mirrorless Camera Comparison

Mirrorless Cameras and Lenses

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.

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What Makes Exotic Lenses So Special?

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

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.

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Leica X Vario Announcement

Leica X Vario

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.

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The Question of Leica

Leica M-Monochrome Front View

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?

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